The construction and engineering industries are not renowned for their records on LGBT+ inclusivity, but the tide is changing and at Laing O’Rourke, the LGBT+ network is the first step to ensuring the industries are as diverse and inclusive as they should be.
Laing O’Rourke is part of a wider collective of construction firms that aims to break down the negativity surrounding LGBT+ people in the industry. Together with companies like Balfour Beatty and Arup, Laing O’Rourke takes part in the #BuildingEquality campaign.
The LGBT+ network at Laing O’Rourke, which has been running since 2016 and meets quarterly and also runs events throughout the year, comprises 22 members – most of whom aren’t members of the LGBT+ community. Co-chairs Jocelyne Underwood and Paul Di Mambro believe that this is an important factor in making the network successful in its aims. “A lot of members of the network have joined as allies, because they want to help us increase inclusivity for LGBT+ members of staff,” Paul says.
The quarterly meet-ups are a chance for people to get together and talk openly and freely, and Jocelyne explains that this is how the group is trying to move the LGBT+ agenda forwards. “It’s a communications space for people to meet,” she says. “There are two important factors that aid inclusivity, and those are senior level buy-in and a network to provide the energy to bring it to life.”
It is this energy that keeps the momentum going and is helping Laing O’Rourke move towards its aim of being inclusive enough to be listed on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.
It is difficult, particularly in the construction and engineering industries, to make the necessary changes to create a fully inclusive workplace. This is a problem that is faced across most companies. “Unfortunately people are still having negative experiences,” Paul explains. “It can depend on where in the business you work or where in the country, but our network is the first step to changing that.”
There are wider benefits to employing more inclusively, as Paul is keen to point out. “There is a skills shortage in the industry, so we need to be attracting as many people as possible – and that means people from the LGBT+ community, Black and Minority Ethnic communities people with disabilities and more women who all have the skills we need,” he says.
There is a sense within the industry that coming out can have a negative impact on career progression – a myth that Paul wants to dispel. “People are often mistaken that they’ll harm their progression by coming out and that’s not the case,” he says. “We have to do more to eradicate that feeling and allow people to be comfortable being who they are.”
InterEngineering is one organisation that is making waves in LGBT+ inclusivity in the engineering sector and Laing O’Rourke works closely with it. “InterEngineering has done really well to quickly become a credible source on this matter and has support from the Royal Academy of Engineering and other professional bodies,” Paul says. “It’s had a lot of media coverage and they’re pushing the message that says ‘I’m LGBT+ and an engineer – so what?’ It’s also got regional divisions that we link our closest sites to.”
Jocelyne highlights some of the events that the company is attending (or already has) this year, including London, Manchester, Brighton and Birmingham Prides. “At London Pride in July, we’ll have about 15 Laing O’Rourke representatives in the parade under the #BuildingEquality banner with other big construction organisations,” she says.
A positive impact
“I really hope we can make a difference,” Paul says. “Not many people have come forward yet – meaning we need to do more. We want to enable people to be who they really are at Laing O’Rourke.”
Jocelyne notes that policies within the company will grow over time. “This will come as a result of the Stonewall survey,” she says. “For us, the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index is the benchmark we want to meet.”
Come and speak to the Laing O’Rourke LGBT+ network members at:
• Pride in London: Saturday 8 July
• Brighton Pride: Saturday 5 August
• Manchester Pride: Saturday 26 August