Sharon Slinger: I'm PROUD every month
June is a time when we increasingly see social media awash with rainbows. It is of course Pride Month. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good rainbow (after all it is my corporate branding) but those of us in the LGBT+ community want to see companies making a difference ALL YEAR ROUND. We don’t just exist in Pride Month and then disappear for the rest of the year, so what should companies do to support do that?
I do want to recognise how far we have come. I’ve worked in the industry for over 20 years, and came out fairly early on in my career. I thankfully never had any issues personally, but I do know of others who have faced homophobia and transphobia, and many more who have just hidden that part of their lives from everyone at work out of fear it would affect their career progression. Sadly this is still the case for many, but we are now creating a space to talk about these challenges.
We’re giving companies the opportunity to address them, and seeing more visible LGBT+ role models is all positive progress.
So what more can companies do?
When I founded the Carillion LGBT+ network in 2016, there weren’t many built environment organisations that had LGBT+ networks. These networks are important for a number of reasons, including providing support and a safe space for LGBT+ colleagues, and for driving LGBT+ inclusion across the business. I’ve also found that they are great for building the confidence of some colleagues that have previously hidden away. But they have to be supported properly by the business, they have to be given power to influence change, and those involved have to be given time and recognition for the work they do. This does not always happen.
Loads of company logos turn rainbow in Pride Month in support of their LGBT+ colleagues, but what we also want to see is what structural changes have they made over the past year to support LGBT+ inclusion. What are their plans for the following year? How do they keep progressing? Are they willing to speak out on social justice issues such as conversion therapy, or trans rights?
Here are some examples of what organisations should be doing:
This may seem a bit boring but it is so important: reviewing policies and processes to ensure they are inclusive of the LGBT+ community and their families: gender neutral policies, family friendly policies, pensions and more.
Encouraging feedback from employees on how the business is doing regarding inclusion, particularly, in this case, LGBT+ inclusion. Through feedback, steps can be taken to address concerns.
Educating colleagues about LGBT+ issues. This might be getting a basic understanding of current terminology (ever-changing in the LGBT+ world), why pronouns or rainbow lanyards are important, what everyday challenges LGBT+ people are facing, and much more.
Providing a space for people to share their stories (if they are comfortable). We know real-life stories from colleagues help people to understand better.
Celebrating the LGBT+ community through parades and other pride events.
As built environment professionals, we are also in a unique position to influence the design of our buildings and public spaces to be more LGBT+ inclusive. Whether it be including gender neutral toilets, designing to reduce hate crime, or ensuring LGBT+ heritage is maintained, there are many elements of the built environment that we can address.
So as we come to the end of Pride Month, let’s all think about how we continue the positive progress, share the impactful work we are doing, and ensure it happens ALL YEAR ROUND.
Author: Sharon Slinger
Sharon Slinger FRICS CIWFM is the Director of award winning diversity and inclusion specialist, Constructing Rainbows , supporting built environment organisations to improve their business through implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies.
With a background in quantity surveying, Sharon has over 20 years' experience working in the construction and facilities management industries for main contractors.