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Why the UK construction sector needs the LGBT community

JLL’s Anisa Hussein discusses in Construction News

​Last year’s Construction News revealed that just 7% of LGBT employees within the construction industry would recommend it as a ‘great place to work’, with over two thirds of staff reporting having heard offensive or homophobic comments. This year Construction News has launched a survey to investigate the industry’s attitude towards LGBT people and whether attitudes have since improved in the last year. Today, I’m here to give you my view..

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

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 ‘Building Pride’ LGBT network and the firms Project Management, Cost Management and Building Consultancy teams joined forces with three top UK construction and fit-out companies and encouraged their construction workers to wear multi-coloured ‘Rainbow Laces’ on site as a visible sign of support for the LGBT community. Volker-Fitzpatrick, BW and Tétris-bluu rolled out the campaign across several of their London sites with some amazing success. In fact, the campaign 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.

The key 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.

While the campaign was an overall success, it also revealed the ‘stone age’ side of construction with some contracting companies JLL contacted and their site 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 2015/16. 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.

Indeed, diversity within any environment allows for an abundant range of possibilities and a wider resource base of ideas resulting in innovation. 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, however is actually getting the results.


Published in Construction News 1 September 2016