A matter of Pride

Pride

In Inclusivity, Construction industry

Pride month is celebrated every June as a tribute to those who were involved in the Stonewall Riots. The month is dedicated to LGBTQ+ communities all around the world, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first UK Gay Pride march, which took place in London on 1 July 1972.

For those unfamiliar with the history, the Stonewall Riots took place on 28 June 1969, after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, New York. Back in the 1960s life was very different for those in the LGBTQ+ community. At this time, being gay was classified as a mental illness in the US and homophobia was rife. Against an undercurrent of discrimination and harassment, the rioters rose from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The Stonewall Riots marked a turning point in history for gay rights, with the first Gay Pride march in New York history taking place on its anniversary a year later.

The LGBTQ+ community has long been discriminated against, even in law. In the UK, being gay was still a crime until 1967. Section 28 - a series of laws across England, Scotland and Wales that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities - was in place from 1988 to 2000 in Scotland, and 1988-2003 in England and Wales.

While times have changed, homophobia is still a very ugly problem. This is especially true in male dominated industries such as construction. A growing number of the UK population identify as LGBTQ+, which in turn includes thousands of tradespeople in our industry.

According to the latest Sexual orientation, UK: 2020 data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

  • The proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight was 93.6% in 2020.
  • An estimated 3.1% of the UK population aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2020, an increase from 2.7% in 2019 and almost double the percentage from 2014 (1.6%).
  • 0.7% were classed at ‘other’ which captures people who do not consider themselves to fit into the heterosexual or straight, bisexual, gay, or lesbian categories.
  • 2.6% of respondents didn’t know or refused to say what category they belong to.
  • The proportion of men in the UK identifying as LGB increased from 1.9% to 3.4% between 2014 and 2020; the proportion of women identifying as LGB has risen from 1.4% to 2.8% over the same period.
  • People aged 16 to 24 years continue to be the most likely to identify as LGB in 2020 (8.0%) reflecting an increasing trend for this age group since 2014; this breaks down to 2.7% identifying as gay or lesbian, and 5.3% identifying as bisexual.

Statistically, there are nearly double the number of LGBT+ members of the UK plumbing and heating industry than there are female engineers. Also, young people entering the industry are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+.

Sadly, research has shown that the whole industry needs to work harder in relation to LGBTQ+ inclusivity. When surveyed, many in the LGBTQ+ community working in construction choose to keep their identity to themselves while in the workplace. This was for many reasons, including concern over career progression and homophobia. Ironically, for women in construction, sexuality is less of an issue, with gender being the main barrier.

While Pride is all about being out and proud, many in the construction sector continue to think it is not an option for them. A 2020 research exercise by CIOB and Loughborough University framed construction sites as often traditional, exclusive spaces dominated by hyper-masculine white males.

The plumbing and heating sector offers so many diverse career paths and should be open to all. While we may be making big strides forward in many areas, it seems in construction there is still a long way to go.