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News & opinion

17 JUN 2020

Pride in the profession

Built environment professions have made important progress in making the sector accessible to the LGBTQ+ community, but more needs to be done, so we asked three professionals to share how firms can achieve the highest standards of inclusivity.

We all have a role to play when it comes to fighting LGBTQ+ discrimination

Sharon Slinger FRICS is director at Constructing Rainbows

Companies need to ensure their policies and processes are inclusive to all. Much of this will come down to inclusive leadership. Managers and directors should be role models, demonstrating the behaviour and respect for people we all expect in the modern workplace. This means being able to call out intolerant behaviour, not just in your own organisation, but also with anyone working on your project or with your project team. Fighting intolerance should not just be left to the LGBTQ+ community – we all have a role to play. 

Firms should set the right culture. For example, being able to talk about your home life at work is important to some people, and LGBTQ+ staff should never feel left out of conversations about their lives. This is especially important when someone is considering, or is in the process of, transitioning gender. A company’s first response to such a change is all-important – they must support that person, and make the situation as stress-free as possible. For firms unsure how to approach these issues, Stonewall, LGBT+ in FM or Building Equality offer practical guidance, while there are plenty of LGBTQ+ professionals happy to offer advice.

Being able to talk about your home life at work is important to some people, and LGBTQ+ staff should never feel left out of conversations about their lives.

You have to ensure your values are reflected in how employees are treated

Marko Salopek MRICS is project manager at Clarion Housing Group

As a board member of Freehold LGBT networking forum, I understand the importance of an open, welcoming, supportive environment for LGBTQ+ professionals. Are employees allowed to be themselves? Do they feel valued? And does senior leadership promote diversity and inclusion? 

Firms can also make sure clients or contractors behave appropriately towards LGBTQ+ staff. Start by evaluating how diverse and inclusive they are and what they are doing to promote LGBTQ+ equality. It’s important to set an example to clients and contractors. It is also worth ensuring their supply chain is diverse and inclusive, and speak up if clients or contractors behave inappropriately – this goes against common courtesy, as well as RICS global professional and ethical standards. Another approach is to bring clients or contractors on a journey – attend LGBTQ+ networking events, seminars, panel discussions or Pride walks, and encourage them to host toolbox-talks.

You may not get it right the first time, but do engage with your LGBTQ+ employees and LGBTQ+ networks for advice. Putting up a rainbow flag every June is not enough – ensure that your values and marketing activities are reflected in how you treat your employees, partners and clients.

The community needs more allies in the industry to call out intolerance

John Doyle MRICS is associate director at Dooley Associates

A lot of companies talk the talk on diversity and inclusivity, but don’t walk the walk – but people can see who is genuinely diverse and inclusive, and who is merely manipulating those terms. That’s not to say the LGBTQ+ community is not fully appreciative of the huge steps that have been taken over recent years, this goes without saying, but the community needs more “true allies” in the industry – team members, managers and directors who will call out sexist, misogynistic, homophobic or transphobic behaviour. It’s crucial that LGBTQ+ people know that their team have their back. No one should have to work in fear – to do so means they will never be their best selves for the company.

Organisations such as Building Equality, an alliance of major construction organisations, including RICS, that work together to create an inclusive industry, are immensely helpful for LGBTQ+ people. I’ve made great personal and business relationships through it, as well as gaining new work for the firm. The alliance also does great work liaising with contractors’ teams on the ground and members’ office teams, about the issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community, explaining how we could all do things differently to help eliminate homophobia and misogyny from the industry.