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Homophobia could be costing UK engineering sector £11billion a year

Report explores the cost of anti-LGBTI prejudice in engineering sector: highlights the fact that half of those in the industry choose to stay in closet

Homophobia could be costing UK engineering sector £11billion a year
Conservative Party | Lord Browne
L-R: MP Alec Shelbrooke and Lord Browne of Madingley

A new report into homophobia and transphobia in the UK engineering sector has said that up to £11.2billion ($17billion/€15.6billion) could be currently lost from the country’s GDP due to bullying and pressures on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender engineers in the workplace.

The report has been published by Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke and LGBT Engineering network group, InterEngineering.

Key findings reported within Engineering Action: Tackling Homophobia in Engineering include:

  • Around half of the LGBT people working in engineering choose to remain in the closet (53% of engineering workers compared with a national UK average of 34%).
  • People who remain in the closet at work can be up to 30% less productive than those who are out.
  • The UK risks not hitting its target of recruiting almost a million new engineers in the next ten years if it fails to address homophobia in the engineering industry.
  • Companies that visibly support LGBT diversity often see benefits of an inclusive business culture encouraging other underrepresented groups. In engineering, this includes women.

The report notes that the engineering sector employs around 5.4 million people in the UK, and that, ‘In the year ending March 2013, UK Engineering businesses had made a turnover of £1.1trillion accounting for 24.5% of UK annual turnover.’

Shelbrooke has been the MP for Elmet and Rothwell since 2010 and is a Mechanical Engineer by profession and ministerial aid to the Minister for Employment. He said in a statement: ‘The basis of this report is to recommend that homophobic attitudes can be transformed through proactive, educational teamwork and leadership.

‘Companies that have adopted such an approach have seen up to a 30% increase in productivity from openly LGBT employees as a direct result of a happier and more cohesive workplace.

‘This report not only highlights the prevalence of homophobia in the engineering industry, but also lays out a proactive approach for the sector to tackle this issue head-on.’

Among the reports recommendations are the formation of employment resource groups, role model programs, reverse mentoring, ally/support programs, the implementation of diversity and inclusion requirements for approved corporate partner programs (as many engineering firms have to partner with companies in other countries where LGBT rights are not respected).

The report’s co-author, Mark McBride-Wright, of InterEngineering, ‘Progress and acceptance within the workplace for those in the LGBT community is hindered by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language, both in the office and on site.

‘For example, using “gay” as an expression denoting something negative. I have experienced this. It may be casual banter for some, but for me it resonates with childhood bullying and must be challenged and stopped.’

McBride told Gay Star Business that he and Shelbrooke had been working on the report for the past few months and that it had been sent to senior Government figures.

‘I think engineering has a long way to go, and through this report I am hopeful for a step-change in approach with an accelerated implementation,’ he said, when asked if he thought the situation was slowly improving for LGBT engineers.

‘The report has been sent to Prime Minister David Cameron, George Osborne, Iain Duncan-Smith, Priti Patel and Nicky Morgan. We hope to engage CEOs and presidents of engineering institutes as well as leading figures of engineering firms to work together on addressing homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in engineering.’

The report was welcomed by Lord Browne of Madingley, the former head of BP and now Executive Chairman of L1 Energy, who said, ‘As a graduate trainee engineer at BP in the 1960s, it was immediately obvious to me that being gay in business and most definitely in the oil business, was unacceptable.

‘This report explores the consequences of failing to create an inclusive work environment. It shows that when people are not comfortable bringing their whole selves to work they do not engage and productivity suffers as a result.’


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