Construction celebrates 10 years at London Pride

Inclusion experts have hailed a “sea change” as the construction industry took to the streets to celebrate its 10th year at London Pride.

Around 200 people marched for LGBTQ+ equality on Saturday as part of a coalition of six built environment organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Balfour Beatty, accompanied by a rainbow digger, and LGBTQ+ network Building Equality also took part in the procession. They joined around 32,000 people in the official parade.

Among the marchers was Building Equality co-founder Christina Riley, who transitioned gender while working at Balfour Beatty.

At the beginning of the last decade, LGBTQ+ visibility in construction was “buried as deep as a double-storey basement”, she told Construction News.

Riley hailed the growth of LGBTQ+ employee resource groups at tier one contractors, starting with Balfour Beatty and Lendlease. Building Equality has grown from four members to 60 since its inception in 2015, with chapters in cities around the UK including Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff. That year, 40 people marched with the network at Pride.

“Progress has been slow but we have achieved some incredible milestones on the journey to greater inclusion, though there is still much to do,” Riley said. “The sea change is happening.”

The CIOB donned rainbow hard-hats and hi-vis as they marched behind a series of rainbow house-like structures, supported by the London Festival of Architecture.

“We know from research that a third of LGBTQ+ workers in the sector believe that their sexual orientation is a barrier to career progression, so it is highly likely that many LGBTQ+ colleagues will not feel able to be open and honest about themselves at work,” CIOB head of equality, diversity and inclusion transformation Mark Harrison told Construction News.

He warned that feeling unable to express oneself at work can cause people to look for other jobs.

“Putting the ethical arguments to one side, it makes little sense for employers to ignore this issue in such a highly competitive employment market as we are currently seeing with the associated people and skills gaps,” he said.

Last week, the CIOB launched guidance documents aimed at supporting SMEs to improve their diversity and inclusion practices.

Harrison said: “We recognise that adopting inclusive employment practices can be a daunting challenge for employers in the sector – particularly smaller companies with no dedicated staff to rely on.”

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