Supporting LGB employees
Chris Edwards of Stonewall highlights steps practices can take to help lesbian, gay and bisexual architects be comfortably out at work
What are the main problems lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) employees face in the modern workplace?
Many lesbian, gay and bisexual people report lacking confidence in their employer in tackling an instance of homophobia. Derogatory comments and jokes at the expense of gay people are seen as ‘office banter’ and there is often a reluctance to challenge inappropriate language and offensive remarks. This sends a signal that the workplace culture isn’t inclusive, as less overt forms of prejudice remain unchallenged.
Smaller practices often don’t have HR departments. What are the main provisions they should consider for LGB employees?
Practices could start by reviewing their website or any internal policies and benefits and checking they are inclusive of LGB people. For example: is homophobic bullying explicitly referred to in an anti-bullying policy, and are benefits equally applicable to same-sex partners?
Why is it important that LGB architects feel comfortable being ‘out’ in the workplace?
LGB people who are comfortable being out at work report greater productivity; they are able to build better relationships with clients and will also be more loyal to employers. It doesn’t just make sense on an individual basis, it also makes strong business sense.
Having openly gay people, especially at senior levels, sends a powerful message to other LGB staff across the organisation that the employer values diversity. With so few openly gay senior architects, I think the sector would benefit from having more LGB role models to inspire and encourage other gay people in the profession.
How can employers provide better support for LGB architects?
Employers have a huge role to play in ensuring that LGB people are able to achieve their full potential at work. This includes having robust policies on inclusion and diversity which clearly outline a zero tolerance approach to sexual orientation discrimination. Employers can also signpost their LGB staff towards external sources of support, including professional networking groups, such as Freehold.
What should practice managers be aware of when sending LGB architects on international assignments?
Employers need to make sure their gay staff can make informed choices about working abroad. For example, while an architect may be comfortable being openly gay in a London practice, would their manager appreciate that employee’s reluctance to be assigned to work on a project in a country where being openly gay carries the death penalty?