Plumbing pride?


In Construction industry, Inclusivity

Pride month is celebrated every June as a tribute to those who were involved in the Stonewall Riots. Nowadays Pride celebrates LGBTQ+ communities all around the world – usually in a riot of colour and events. However, this year will see events scaled down, held virtually or pushed back until the Government roadmap allows for large gatherings.

Stonewall riots

For those unaware of the history, the 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 LGBT+ community. At this time, being gay was classified as a mental illness in the US and homophobia was rife. Even in the UK, being gay was still a crime until 1967.

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 first UK Gay Pride march took place in London on 1 July 1972.

LGBTQ+ rights in the 2020s

Although we have come a very long way since the 1960s, with widespread public outrage at practices such as gay conversion therapy, homophobia is still a very ugly problem. This is especially true in male dominated industries such as construction.

Research by Public Health England back in 2017 found that around 2.5 per cent of the UK population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other. If you apply this percentage figure to the UK construction industry, that means there is likely to be approximately 50,000 LGBT+ members of the sector. If we apply this figure to the UK plumbing and heating industry, it means that statistically, there are more LGBT+ members of the workforce than women.

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. With a 2020 research exercise by CIOB and Loughborough University framing construction sites as often traditional, exclusive spaces dominated by hyper-masculine white males, is it any wonder those in the LGBTQ+ community choose to keep their identity to themselves?