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22nd September Journal Column


By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The industry’s skills shortage has been topical for a number of years, with initiatives and training to upskill employees and train new recruits with the skills the industry needs. With the skills shortage at a high, we’re in no position to be looking at anything other than level of skill and potential when recruiting more workers.

To be anywhere near reaching the targets set by Construction 2025, we need to be encouraging the entire talent pool and not excluding potential candidates, for any reason. We need diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, values, experience and behaviours. 

Without realising, we’re all guilty of unconscious bias – making snap judgements about someone or something based on pre-existing opinions or views, our opinions are formed based on our culture and background.  Unconscious bias can influence the type of people we recruit and who we choose to promote, and it means your company will miss out on the different opinions, experiences and beliefs a diverse workforce can offer.

Constructing Equality works with the industry to raise the profile of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) industry professionals and provide support and advice for the workers that need it. They also run unconscious bias training, coaching and workshops to ensure everyone is given a fair chance, whether that be in recruitment or just providing an opinion that is heard.

Attitudes towards the industry’s LGBT workforce are improving and many firms are working towards creating a more inclusive environment. Companies including Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier and Laing O’Rourke marched for the first time at Pride under the LGBT network group, #BuildingEquality. Last year, the results of Construction News’ annual LGBT+ survey, showed that approx. 71% of the industry’s LGBT workforce felt they could not be open about their sexuality or gender on construction sites, and more than half felt being LGBT stopped them progressing in their career – a heartbreaking statistic to read. I’m interested to see the results from this year’s survey, after the industry was so well represented in several Pride marches up and down the country.

As in any industry, people perform better when they can be themselves. Research has shown that making the workplace more inclusive for LGBT employees brings business benefits including: better job satisfaction and productivity among staff, better staff retention, more choice when recruiting new staff and an overall improved reputation.

The industry is no longer the ‘stereotypical’ dirty, dangerous construction site full of white, heterosexual, ‘tough’ men. We’ve come on leaps and bounds with understanding the positive benefits of a diverse workforce and multiple initiatives and schemes to support further improvement.

Here at CENE, we are planning to hold a meeting to discuss setting up an LGBT network for construction in the North East. If you are interested in getting involved either as someone who identifies as LGBT or as an ally, please contact us.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

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