Opinion

Bam director asks: Why no gay men at our company?

3 July 2018 | By Barbara Cahalane

BAM is participating for the first time in Pride this weekend. But director of corporate communications Barbara Cahalane says there’s more to do to create a culture where everyone in the company can be open about their sexuality.

BAM Construct UK is participating in Pride in Manchester and London this year for the first time.

However, although I have been working at the company for 11 years and I know hundreds of my colleagues by name – I don’t personally know of any male colleagues who are gay. So I wonder what all of us in BAM can do to make it easier for gay men in the business to be open about their sexuality (if they want to be.)

We’ve been making good progress on diversity of late. Women are progressing through our business; there’s a programme of unconscious bias training underway for our senior managers; we’ve being doing great work on mental health awareness. Last year, two of my female colleagues married their girlfriends and it was great to see workmates celebrating with them. Attitudes are changing for the better.

But my concern is that, in 2016, when we asked staff in a confidential, anonymous, survey to indicate their sexual orientation, a small number of respondents identified as a bi-sexual man, but no one identified as a gay man. There were 8.6% of respondents who selected the option ‘prefer not to say’. I would guess that many other companies in the construction sector would report similar findings.

Other industries are more open

So are there no gay men in our company? I doubt it. Some 1,739 men work in BAM Construct UK. The latest research from the Office for National Statistics shows that 1.5% of men in the UK identify as gay. Nowadays, in the UK, MPs, journalists, actors, lawyers – even rugby players – openly identify their sexual orientation and no one bats an eyelid, and nor should they.

It should be like that in the construction industry too. In 2016 we asked BAM staff in a poll: “Would a gay man feel comfortable where you work?” In response, 77% replied yes and 23% no.

A person’s identity is complex and made up of multiple strands. I believe no one should have to reveal his or her sexual orientation, if they do not want to. We all have experiences at times that make us feel as if we are on the outside. As a single woman in her late fifties, I still feel uncomfortable when couples ask me why I have never married, as if I have failed in some way to conform to an expected norm. I can see how much more difficult it must be for a man who – day-in-day-out – feels he has to conceal part of who he is when he’s at work. We know that prolonged discomfort of this kind – a feeling of being on the outside – can be a contributor to poor mental health.

Participating in Pride is a good way of publicly demonstrating BAM Construct UK’s commitment to becoming a more open and diverse company.

And I hope it will inspire all of us in BAM Construct UK to keep on working towards a culture in our company where everyone can be open about their sexuality.

Comments

This article is totally ridiculous. What on earth has sexuality got to do with employment? The next thing will be what are your ethical views?

This is rubbish not a relevant discussion to have in respect of the workplace.

Graham Hooley, 5 July 2018

Maybe, just maybe, people may like to keep their sexuality private? Maybe, people may not like to stamp their sexuality over social media on jump on the band wagon of what is in the public spotlight and trendy.

Let people be what they want to be without asking them to identify themselves by their sexual preferences. You never know, they may have a life outside of employment and an employers who is trying to mollycoddled staff.

If people want to go on a Pride march, I salute that, respect it and encourage it, equally, if someone wants to stay at home and tend to their garden with their partner, that's fine too...isn't it?

I think that the unnecessary pressure that such surveys place on sexual orientation is unhelpful and in my opinion ill conceived. To what end does such surveys achieve..? It ticks the diversity box.

I think we can be more imaginative.

Mehmet Bekir, 5 July 2018

Looks like Graham Hooley is pretty obviously part of the problem.

Well done to BAM! - although lots of other construction companies have given this type of support already.

Dave Raval, 5 July 2018

The article has nothing to do with employment or at least how to tackle unemployment. It is not even relevant to the work place and its ethics.

I disagree completely with the content of the article.

Ehab Shallaby, 5 July 2018

This article and BAM intention are totally ill-conceived. I agree totally with Graham Hooley and Mehmet Bekir,

Would BAM now embark on a mission to employ gay men in order to redress the "lack of gay men" in the Business?

Very poor judgement.

kola roberts, 6 July 2018

Surely anyones sexuality is their own business, and the business should mind its own?

John, 8 July 2018

Reading through these comments, I am appalled. It is a sad truth that the construction industry is slow to change, but some of these comments are so narrow minded.

If gay men and women, or for that matter anyone, is dissuaded from joining a career in construction for some reason then we need to find out why. For an organisation to have 1700 employees, and not a single one of them is, or feels safe enough to admit to being gay, then something is wrong.

If its because, all gay people somehow don't want to work in that industry, great. Fine. I don't believe in forced diversity or positive discrimination. But if its because of discrimination, or the culture of the industry, then something needs to change.

But in either case, these surveys help to find out why, so to say what is the point, the business should mind its own business, is simply petulant. If our actions as professionals, as employees or employers are discouraging or creating a negative culture for our LGBT colleagues, then I'm sorry, but its EVERYONE'S business.

Very concerned to see these comments being so dismissive, especially days after a government survey has shown that 2/3rds of LGBT people are too fearful to hold their partner's hand in public.

However much work there is to do towards equality in society, there seems to be even more to do in the construction industry.

Jack, 10 July 2018

I have been in the construction industry for 35 years, I have not come out for many reasons. Manly it’s no one business but my own. And also yes no one should judge but they do that just our society period. I have had out friends say I need to come out but honestly I see no reason to, as that part of my life really doesn’t define me or need to be broadcast out there. And for those who say to pave the way for others, I say if that’s how they wish to live their lives then it’s up to them to live that way and not me to do it for them.

Ray, 17 October 2018

I am a gay male in the construction industry in the USA. I started as an electrician at 19 years old. I’m 32 now and I’m not publicly out. During years I’ve been scalating positions to become a Supervisor. That little bit of power gave me the courage to come out to some of my coworkers, but only because they are also my friends out of work, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. Is really hard to be gay in this industry. You hear comments, judgements and sometimes rejection from other people that really hurt. But in my mind is like, I’m here to do my job and that’s all it matters. I use to get new workers to work with me and they find out from others about my sexuality, but they don’t say anything cuz I’m in the position of power. It shouldn’t be that way. When I told my coworkers about my sexuality I make them clear that we are here to work. Everything else has no importance, and if you think that could be an obstacle for you, then you should go to work somewhere else. I imagine for a second what would it be if I wouldn’t have that power. I would be the one who has to leave. The problem is not the industry. The problem is that society of men who think because you are gay you want to have sex with all men in earth. And that’s what they fear. That’s why they feel uncomfortable around gay. Cuz their sexuality is no defined enough to think further than what they believe. Homophobia is everywhere. I keep myself inside the closet just to protect myself. But if someone ask me about it I tell the truth. I’m a married gay pal, that’s my personal life. Do you have any problem with that?

Lewis G, 1 November 2018

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