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Is this the start of the end for homophobia in the construction industry?

Is this the start of the end for homophobia in the construction industry?

Tom Guy is the founder of Student Pride and an architect.

A shocking 63% of people in the construction industry – and 85% of contractors – have witnessed homophobia at work.

That fact published by the Architects’ Journal last year highlighted a very personal issue for me.

As an architect I work within the construction industry. But I also have a second job – a voluntary one for National Student Pride which I founded a little over a decade ago.

And even for me, homophobia at work is so prevalent it has sometimes been hard to be open about my own sexuality and identity whilst on site.

Luckily attitudes within the industry are beginning to change.

I am thrilled we have six of the biggest construction firms attending Student Pride and excited to see the work that is now being carried out within the industry to help eradicate prejudices.

Our free student careers fair in central London tomorrow (6 February) will see students chatting to leading construction firms Arcadis, Arup, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, Lendlease and Skanska.

Christina Riley, senior planner at Balfour Beatty CSUK, has joined our team of friends and advisors who help make Student Pride happen. She knows the struggles LGBTIs in the industry face more than anyone.

‘As a transgender woman, I know what it’s like to live in the closet while having a successful career. Having to hide who you are, what defines you as a person, your life with a partner… all these things effect not only your performance at work, but your personal life,’ she told me.

It is because of this she feels establishing LGBT networks and safe spaces within her firm, and others like it, are vital.

‘Supporting young people to themselves can only be a good thing. At Balfour Beatty we have a very visible LGBT network, we have enhanced our equality policies across the whole business to become more LGBT friendly, and we are now rolling out diversity talks to many of our construction sites.’

Christina has felt the benefits of being ‘out’ at work first hand, and hopes one day everybody in the construction industry will feel able to be their authentic self.

‘I think that times are definitely changing, but more work needs to be done. As Stonewall Diversity Champions, we are looking to improve our workplace equality rating year on year. We will be launching an LGBT allies scheme, and myself and Rose Donaghey, co-chairs of the LGBT network, will be taking part in the Delight Ride across Britain, a 900 mile trip from Lands End to John O’Groats that looks to raise the agenda for LGBT policy in construction.’

Of course, there is still a long way to go before homophobia is eradicated from our industry, but with people like Christina working tirelessly to make it a safer place for LGBTI people, hopefully it will only be a matter of time before surveys looking into workplace homophobia and transphobia return very different results.

Tom Guy is a partner at Guy Piper Architects which he founded in 2014. He is also the president of National Student Pride.

The Student Pride careers fair runs from 12.30pm to 5pm tomorrow (6 February) at The University of Westminster Marylebone Campus in London and is open to all. (Opposite Madame Tussauds, nearest tube: Baker Street.)

Gay Star News is a media partner of National Student Pride.