Nearly one million people within the UK identify as LGBT+. Yet many still experience homophobia in the workplace. International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (17 May) is a globally recognised day that raises interest in LGBT+ rights work worldwide.
Kier is committed to creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole self to work. Steven Woodward, Marketing Coordinator, Kier Major Projects and Chair of the Kier LGBT+ and Allies Network, talks about the importance of such networks in the workplace.
“A 2018 Construction News survey of over 1,000 LGBT+ people within the construction industry found that 56% of respondents didn’t feel comfortable being open about their sexuality in their place of work, while 28% said that they had experienced homophobic abuse within the last year (an improvement on the 33% who reported abuse the previous year).
“Acceptance and tolerance in our industry is improving, but this has not happened in isolation; it is in large part thanks to the good work of LGBT+ groups and networks within organisations such the Kier Balanced Business Network and the Kier LGBT+ and Allies Network.
“At Kier, we want all our employees to feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work, whether that’s openly telling someone you’re LGBT+, or discussing your faith or culture, without fear of discrimination.
“We regularly review our policies ensuring they are fit for purpose and support our people. Our new trans, intersex and non-binary policies, protects colleagues throughout their transitions, allowing them to dress in appropriate work attire for the gender they identify as, that they can use toilet facilities which best reflect their gender identity, and where possible provide gender neutral facilities.
“In recognition that LGBT+ communities feel a lack of inclusion within the built environment, Kier joined the industry working group Building Equality, which shares best practice and other initiatives to drive inclusion within the built environment, and we are working as a Stonewall Diversity Champion to ensure all our policies are inclusive of protected characteristics, because people perform better when they can be themselves.
“I recently spoke to James, a Kier Regional Building employee and member of the LGBT+ and Allies Network, who said: “Having an LGBT+ network gives me that support I didn’t have when I was doing my apprenticeship with another company, during which I struggled with being on site and not being who I truly am. I was out to the world but in work I was restricted, out of fear of persecution due to the daily conversations, comments and general behaviour of people on site towards the LGBT+ community.”
“Everyone should feel able to choose how much of their private life they share at work. Bringing your whole self to work and being open and honest with our colleagues about who you are can be daunting, which is why it’s important to have supportive allies, particularly in working situations where we are far away from friends and family.”
“That’s why allies are crucial to our network’s success. Being an ally is about standing side by side with someone in the face of adversity or inequality. You can show support simply by being there and listening to someone’s experiences. Having a broader understanding of individuals who differ from ourselves can help tremendously in forming acceptance and key to cultural change.
“We are starting to see the benefits the network is having within the wider business and we aren’t just ticking a box with what we’re doing – we are passionately committed to our business reflecting the diverse communities we work in. If we want to work in a company where people are accepted without exception, we all need to strive to be an active part of the solution.”