Balfour Beatty, JLL and Lendlease among speakers at Stonewall conference on homophobia

LGBT right charity Stonewall is organising a conference to raise awareness of homophobia and transphobia in the construction industry following an investigation involving Construction News into the experiences of LGBT employees.

The event will be the first organised by the group focusing specifically on the problems faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees within the wider construction and property sector.

It follows an investigation into the experiences of LGBT employees in construction earlier this year, led by Construction News, New Civil Engineer and Architects’ Journal.

The investigation found that homophobia was rife in construction, with more than 80 per cent of gay men and women in some parts of the industry encountering homophobic comments in the past year.

The report also found that just 14 per cent of gay employees felt comfortable being open about their sexual orientations onsite, and that only one in 10 would recommend the industry to gay men and women.

Matteo Lissana, Stonewall’s representative for the built environment sector and organiser of the conference spoke of the ‘appalling but unsurprising’ results of the investigation.

He said: “The report highlighted the difficulties gay and transgender employees face in the industry. Construction lags behind many other industries in terms of LGBT rights, and it’s time to bring these problems into the open.”

He added: “Many organisations within the industry are working hard to push LGBT equality. However, homophobia is still a big problem, especially on construction sites, while the lack of trust and openness in some workplaces will undoubtedly have an effect on job satisfaction levels and productivity.”

The conference Building an Inclusive Environment will take place on Monday 30 November in Lendlease offices at 20 Triton Street, Regents Place, London, NW1 3BF.

Speakers will include Dave Carlos, senior consultant at JLL, the first property firm to march at London Pride, and Martin Coyd, regional head of environment, health and safety at Lendlease, who has been active in promoting diversity at the contractor.

Mr Coyd was also instrumental in getting more than 1,000 site workers across London to wear rainbow-coloured laces, following Stonewall’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign in sport.

Also speaking at the event will be Christina Riley, senior planner at Balfour Beatty and a transgender employee.

“The construction and property sector is historically very traditional, but this is slowly changing,” said Mr Lissana. “The industry is beginning to realise that an outdated attitude towards diversity is distancing itself from a large number of talented employees. Not only is LGBT inclusion the right thing to do, it also makes businesses more competitive in the face of a diverse but shrinking talent pool.”