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Our survey uncovers the pain of LGBT+ professionals

Emily Booth
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It is the emotion, pain, anger and frustration of our survey respondents that brings the story behind these statistics alive, writes Emily Booth

Rainbow flag breeze

 

‘In client meetings, I generally don’t bother with coming out. The industry is still struggling with women. Watching it blow its tiny mind over the idea women aren’t exclusively interested in men isn’t something I can always find time for, especially when that someone is in a position of financial power over the company.’

This is just one hard-hitting response collected by the AJ’s latest annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) survey, run in collaboration with our sister titles New Civil Engineer and Construction News. The survey does not make for comfortable reading, with a seven-point fall in LGBT+ respondents who are ‘out’ in their practice, down to 73 per cent from 80 per cent in 2016.

There is a clear feeling from the survey that not being able to ‘be yourself’ at work can lead to anxiety and unhappiness

Our survey is a snapshot of the experience of members of the LGBT+ community. While not exhaustive, it is a definite indication of deeper troubles. We have collected quantitative and qualitative data – and while the cold, hard numbers quite rightly make the headlines, it is the emotion, pain, anger and frustration in the anonymous comments that bring the story behind these statistics alive.

‘I wouldn’t divulge my sexuality at design team meetings or on site for fear of being taken less seriously as a professional,’ says one respondent. ‘There’s so much prejudice,’ writes another. ‘There is a definite straight, white, average male agenda that plays out around the senior part of the industry, which makes it more difficult to progress,’ says a third.

There is a clear feeling from the survey that not being able to ‘be yourself’ at work can lead to anxiety and unhappiness, a sense of always walking on eggshells and not being able to participate fully in debate and discussion. What also comes across is respondents’ experiences of different environments – perhaps feeling more comfortable at a practice office, less so on site. It points to a sense of a more intolerant society, polarised by social media, and one witnessing increased levels of hate crime and homophobia.

In our survey, what isn’t said is almost as interesting as what is. When we asked our respondents ‘Which LGBT+ member of the profession do you most admire and why?’ nearly half were unable to name anybody. In terms of supporting and encouraging diverse voices, there’s a long way to go.

This article appeared in the Education issue – click here to buy a copy 

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