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AJ survey shows homophobia is rife in practices and on site

Reader poll reveals nearly half of LGB architects experience discrimination

Almost half of all gay, lesbian and bisexual (LGB) architects have heard homophobic comments in the workplace over the last year, and one in five has directly experienced offensive or inappropriate comments relating to their sexual orientation.

The figures emerged from the AJ’s first-ever survey of gay men and women architects, which was completed by more than 300 respondents. The survey also showed that, while almost three quarters of gay men and women feel comfortable being open about their sexuality in practice, this falls to 41 per cent at external meetings and industry events, and to just 16 per cent when visiting construction sites.

Responding to the survey, RIBA president Angela Brady said: ‘Everyone should have the right to be themselves at work. While it’s somewhat reassuring to see that 74 per cent of gay architects polled by the AJ feel comfortable being out in their practice, it’s distressing to read that this figure drops when they leave the office to work with clients and continues to drop when visiting a construction site.’

She added: ‘Homophobia has no place in the workplace and it needs to be addressed promptly and seriously if it rears its ugly head. I am pleased to see the majority of architects and their employees recognise this.’

Professor Fionn Stevenson, director of technology at Sheffield School of Architecture, said the survey showed that ‘nearly half of those questioned are still experiencing some form of discrimination in the workplace, which is truly depressing, given how far the UK has come in terms of progressive LGB acceptance.’

She added: ‘There are power issues at play in relation to clients – people do not want to take a risk with exposing their sexuality. It’s also clear that construction site culture is still far too macho – this is also borne out by women’s experiences on site.’

The survey also revealed that almost half of those surveyed felt there were no visible, openly gay architects at senior levels of the industry, and one in five believed their own sexual orientations would be a barrier to career progression.

Julia Feix, director of Feix and Merlin, said: ‘Only when senior architects, associates and directors start bringing their partners to office outings, client dinners and even contractors’ Christmas parties will there be a chance of change. I truly believe only high-level exposure can drive this forward.’

 

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • This excellent survey provides a potent message to the industry, to employers and to the RIBA. The industry must not be complacent. It needs to realise that there is a problem, and something has to be done about it.

    Practices can act now to improve their working culture; staff need an open, inclusive management style which welcomes diversity not just within written employment guidance, but by good leadership, encouragement of mentoring schemes to improve confidence, and guidance for employers and employees.

    The RIBA is taking the lead on guidance for practices, and must also lead by example, but principally we need visible, approachable and vociferous role models for GLB architects throughout the industry. Indeed we need many and diverse role models for a fully inclusive profession.

    Diversity is not charity – it makes good business sense. Jane Duncan RIBA Equality and Diversity Champion

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