So, no one gives a toss?
This is what one reader of Construction News said to editor Tom Fitzpatrick after it revealed its LGBT+ survey results.
I for one beg to differ. Whether we’re making an economic, business, legal or moral case, the arguments in support of equality and the LGBT+ agenda are far-reaching and powerful. From an economic perspective alone, the need for a more diverse and inclusive workforce is clear.
Just received this charming message. Apparently CN is losing 100 subscriptions because of our ‘LGBT propaganda’. #loveconstruction and want to learn about and promote diversity? Subscribe to CN here: https://t.co/gwWlKmi8Kd #LGBT pic.twitter.com/Lw8ttzSfiu— Tom Fitzpatrick (@CNTomFitz) January 31, 2018
To meet the government’s infrastructure and housing plans, the industry needs to be recruiting one person every 77 seconds. This is no mean feat, even before we start to look at the pace of retirement, digitalisation, the shift in future skills requirements, global mobility and the changing nature of work.
It is our economic duty as a responsible business to reduce inequality of opportunity and reflect the society in which we all live and work.
As CN’s latest LGBT+ survey shows, 53 per cent feel they have to hide their identity at work. Let me translate this: as a sector we are already actively benefiting from the passions, interests, skills and talents of gay, lesbian, trans, and gender-fluid chartered quantity surveyors, cost consultants, architects, project managers, site managers, ecologists and geotechnical engineers, even if they are not ‘out’ at work.
Yet the fact that a further 61 per cent reported feeling that being LGBT+ created barriers to career progression is truly shocking. To actively exclude someone because of their sexual orientation is akin to shooting yourself in the foot, or even both feet. Not to mention being illegal under the Equality Act.
Building a successful, inclusive business
Our learning is that if you are investing in your workforce, building trust, nurturing innovation and creativity, constantly seeking the best solutions for clients and the wider community and getting out of bed in the morning to build a successful business, you can’t leave even one stone unturned in the search for the best talent.
You certainly don’t want to get talent through the door, only to see them leave because of an intolerant, biased company culture.
“Until everyone from every walk of life feels comfortable revealing their true identity at work – this will remain an issue”
Our active LGBT+ network, which includes straight people as ‘allies’, is a source of inspiration for people across our business. It provides fair challenge to address misconceptions or biases, and sees our people all working together to create a great – and inclusive – place to work.
This year I’m extremely proud to have been named as one of the UK’s top 10 Corporate Straight Allies by the NatWest British LGBT Awards. Yet although we’ve come a long way in addressing diversity issues, the journey is far from over. I have ambitions and plans to support an LGBT+ inclusive construction sector. My aim is to deliver lasting change.
Give the client what they want
Crucially, this isn’t just important to our own business. Our clients are increasingly looking for an aligned approach to equality and diversity, and we are excited to see several of our clients in Stonewall’s Top 100 employers index.
As Stonewall Champions, we will be looking to learn from our client’s own LGBT+ inclusive approaches. Clients are not looking for us to tick the equality box any more. They are expecting us to demonstrate how we are translating their equality goals into meaningful actions with impact on the ground. Clients are increasingly looking at their whole supply chain for assurance against legal, business and societal obligations.
You ignore client need at your peril.
Until surveys like CN’s show a marked improvement in the lived experiences of our LGBT+ industry colleagues, you can expect to see Arcadis challenging outdated bias that damages the sector’s reputation. We will continue to support talent into the industry, regardless of background, faith, race, age, disability and sexual orientation.
We need to be having these conversations. Until we can actively demonstrate that our industry is truly inclusive – until everyone from every walk of life feels comfortable revealing their true identity at work – this will remain an issue.
We’re happy to talk about these issues. Are you?
Peter Madden is chief operating officer at Arcadis