Homophobia rife in the construction industry as 85% of LGB workers face offensive remarks

Sexuality survey had 'insufficient data' to include transgender workers

Jonathan Owen
Monday 24 August 2015 16:11
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A building contractor said: 'Homophobic language is endemic, and used almost on a daily basis'
A building contractor said: 'Homophobic language is endemic, and used almost on a daily basis'

Homophobic abuse is rife in Britain’s building industry, with the majority of lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) workers confronted with derogatory comments, according to the first ever survey of attitudes towards sexuality across the construction sector.

In the face of widespread discrimination, less than one in seven on building sites are comfortable being open about their sexual orientation. It is part of a wider picture of prejudice across the fields of architecture, property, contracting and engineering, with one in four workers having been targeted with offensive remarks in the past year.

More than 60 per cent have heard offensive or inappropriate language at work – a proportion which rises to 85 per cent of those on construction sites, states the survey of almost a thousand people by Architects Journal, New Civil Engineer and Construction News. Only 11 per cent of employees would recommend their industry as a “great place to work for LGB people.”

The findings have prompted calls for a major change in the culture within the industry. Some survey respondents have spoken out anonymously. One engineer said: “Homophobia is pandemic within the wider construction industry.” Another commented: “The industry as a whole scares me...despite efforts for equal rights in the workplace, discrimination is fairly rife. I love what I do and it’s a shame to feel threatened or at risk of persecution for being what I am.”

A building contractor said: “Homophobic language is endemic, and used almost on a daily basis.” Another remarked: “If I were completely open with my orientation, my chances for a promotion would have been strongly hindered.”

Less than two thirds of LGB workers would be comfortable being open about their sexuality with close colleagues, according to the survey, which had “insufficient data” to include transgender workers. Matteo Lissana, client account manager, Stonewall, said: “A big cultural shift needs to happen from an organisational perspective.”

Companies need to invest in diversity to remain competitive and attract and retain the best talent, he added. And Harry Rich, chief executive of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said: “This important survey makes for disappointing reading...there is still much more to be done to change attitudes within our profession and most certainly across the wider construction industry.”

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