Gay group calls for diversity
Gay rights group Stonewall is to step up efforts to encourage construction firms to sign up to its Diversity Champions programme, promoting lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in the workplace.
The move follows the publication of Stonewall’s Workplace Index of the top 100 gay-friendly employers, which again revealed a stark absence of construction companies, architectural practices or consultants.
Chris Edwards, workplace associate with Stonewall, said he planned to meet a number of consultants and construction companies in the coming weeks.
“Construction as a whole is a few years behind other sectors, although some progress has been made in recent years on issues such as gender and race in the industry.
“Whether there is an appetite in the industry to tackle sexual orientation is difficult to say because no one is doing it at the moment. We’re looking for a few organisations to take that first step.”
Edwards, a former CABE employee, conceded the industry was dealing with other issues at the moment, not least falling work orders as the recession continues to bite, but insisted there was a “strong economic case” for signing up to the diversity programme.
He said: “We want to highlight the importance of taking sexual orientation in the workplace seriously. It will make your staff happier, more productive and more loyal but it also gives you stronger economic benefits as well.
“The Public Sector Equality Duty now legally requires public bodies to demonstrate that any procured contracts are awarded to organisations that are seriously tackling the equality strands, including sexual orientation. Working with us would give organisations an advantage in securing public sector contracts.”
Lend Lease, Kier and Construction Skills have already signed up to the programme. Edwards said he was keen to meet subcontractors and craft level workers to gauge their interest.
“Construction Skills is interested in bringing this into some training programmes, primarily management training, and the idea is it will start to trickle down from there,” said Edwards.