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Why UK construction needs the LGBT community

Last year Construction News revealed that just 7 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees within the construction industry would recommend it as a ‘great place to work’, with more than two-thirds of staff reporting having heard offensive or homophobic comments. 

This year CN has launched a survey to investigate industry attitudes towards LGBT+ people and whether they have since improved. 

UK construction is facing a huge skills shortage. Its poor image is having a detrimental impact on the industry and the wider economy, for which it is a major income generator.

To attract and retain staff, the industry needs to significantly improve its performance by appealing to a diverse talent pool where sexual orientation, gender, race and religion are not seen as barriers to entry. Essentially, the industry needs to build an environment where people can feel comfortable and express themselves as they would be able to in other employment sectors.

Support on site

To coincide with Pride in London 2016, JLL took part in the ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign devised by LGBT charity, Stonewall. In the weeks leading up to Pride in London, JLL’s in-house LGBT network alongside its project management, cost management and building consultancy teams joined forces with three other construction firms to encourage their workers to wear rainbow shoelaces on site as a visible sign of support for the LGBT community.

VolkerFitzpatrick, BW and Tétris-bluu rolled out the campaign across several of their London sites with some amazing success. It demonstrated that you don’t have to be a large multinational organisation to get involved and make a difference, with BW being awarded the ‘diversity champion’ accolade by Stonewall.

“Diversity within any environment allows for an abundant range of possibilities and a wider resource base of ideas, boosting innovation in the process”

The crucial aim of the Rainbow Laces campaign was to challenge and, indeed, change attitudes towards the LGBT community on building sites. For JLL, it was important to educate and encourage workers that exerting inclusive and welcoming behaviour is not only morally and ethically correct, but that such behaviours would make the industry an attractive career to pursue by improving its reputation and economic performance.  

Some way to go

While the campaign was an overall success, it also revealed the ‘stone age’ side of construction, with some companies and their workers declining to take part. This in itself makes it clear that although the industry has progressed, it has a long way to go to before it is fully accepting of the LGBT community.

To date, I’m proud of the results JLL has delivered. The firm has put the wheels in motion not just for leading the Rainbow Laces campaign but by being the first UK property advisory company to march at Pride in London. In addition, under the banner of Changing the Face of Property, JLL has formed strong partnerships with LGBT organisations such as Stonewall and Freehold, the LGBT network for the real estate industry.

Diversity within any environment allows for an abundant range of possibilities and a wider resource base of ideas, boosting innovation in the process. Companies need to be open to discussing LGBT issues, ensure resources are easily accessible and offer support to all staff.

Diversity in all its wonderful shapes and colours must be inherent in company culture and not just viewed as a short-term marketing ploy. The real challenge is actually getting the results.

Anisa Hussein is associate director, project management, at JLL

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