Civil Engineering is an industry that notoriously lacks diversity. As a male-dominated industry, gender equality is at the forefront of the diversity issue but in-line with pride month we also shine a spotlight of LGBT diversity (or lack of) within the industry.
A 2018 report conducted by the Institute of Civil Engineers found that homophobia is common place in the civil engineering industry, and that few felt they could be open about their sexuality in the workplace. It goes as far as stating that the industry is a “a toxic environment for those who do not conform to the white, male, heterosexual stereotype of the construction worker and the homosocial relations that surround it.”
Latest figures from the ONS show that less than 10% of the UK population identify as something other than heterosexual, suggesting that 1 in 10 people will likely identify as LGBTQIA+. These figures would suggest that 10% of LGBT diversity would be a good starting benchmark for equal LGBT diversity within the industry.
ICE also conducted a survey of their members which found that 2% of their members identified as something other than heterosexual/straight, whilst a further 5.6% (1,225) of their members preferred not to disclose their sexual identity. This could suggest that Civil Engineers don’t feel that it is safe or professional to openly express a sexual identity which differs from the industry stereotype. It was great to see that 52 people had declared they were no longer the same sex as they were at birth (non cis-gendered). This is a positive starting point to see an opening for non cis-gendered people within the industry, but is by no means a ticket for complacency in reaching further progress.
LGBT Women within the industry are of the most marginalised, however as sexuality is something that can be hidden more easily than gender and therefore LGBT women are hailing gender diversity as a bigger barrier facing the industry inclusivity, than LGBT diversity.
As with many industries, diversity of culture and life experiences contribute to the best innovation. However, the construction sector has the worst gender imbalance of any sector in the UK, accounting for just 1% of the sector being women. Skills shortage is an increasingly growing issue which is putting strain on the sector, so if that’s the case why is gender equality still such a big issue?!
A step you can take today
LinkedIn recently released a new feature which allows you to display your chosen pronouns on your profile. Stating your pronouns is a respectful way to normalise the concept of being less assumptive about pronouns and recognising that people will choose their pronouns to best align with their identity. It also prevents people who are non cis-gendered (do not identify as the gender they were assigned with at birth), to avoid harm caused by being mis-gendered. Common pronouns can be he/him, she/her, they/them, but can also be less familiar such as xe/xem.
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?
LGBTQIA+ is the expanded term which is inclusive of all people who identify as non-heterosexual and the acronym represents far-reaching umbrellas of identifying sexual orientation: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex, Ally (can be heterosexual but actively support LGBTQI+ individuals). The ‘+’ icon promotes further inclusion to those who identify as different but do not fit within the aforementioned umbrellas of identity.