Consulting firms back #BuildingEquality for LGBT+ friendly construction sector

26 July 2017

50% of LGBT+ employees in the construction industry say they face homophobic or transphobic abuse. The #BuildingEquality network has called on industry leaders to develop the tools and practices to transform the business culture to reflect diversity and inclusion, with support from representatives of engineering and construction consultancies Arup, Arcadis and Mott MacDonald.

Negative associations of casual homophobia and anti-transgender bigotry continue to dog the construction world, with the clichés of cat calling and discrimination against LGBT+ individuals top public perceptions of the industry in particular. In recent years increased pressure from a range of voices groups has begun to pressure management to intervene and change attitudes within the industry has seen an inclusive culture increasingly fostered.

According to research from financial services company Credit Suisse, construction firms that took this route saw improved job satisfaction and productivity, access to a wider pool of talent, and improve the reputation of the industry and specific actors within the industry. Aside from a business case though, an inclusive culture improves wider social wellbeing, and means that companies are inherently compliant with various regulations pertaining to workplace discrimination.

One of the groups active in driving through cultural change in the construction sector is the LGBT+ Construction Working Group, known as #BuildingEquality. The group was founded in 2015, and provides representation and a voice for LGBT people in the construction industry, as well as sending representatives for the Group to various LGBT related events, such as this year’s Pride in London as well as to National Student Pride, a LGBT+ UK careers fair. Employees from engineering and consulting firms Mott MacDonald, Arup and Arcadis were among those representing #BuildingEquality attending this year’s Pride event.

Gary Coetzee, chair of #BuildingEquality, said, “Our industry has made progress, but still too many people feel unable to be themselves in the workplace. We need leaders to accept that homophobia remains a problem for employees and to speak out against it. Being at Pride in London gives us an important opportunity to talk about what we have achieved but, most importantly, what is still needed.”

 Consulting firms back #BuildingEquality for LGBT+ friendly construction sector

Many feel the consulting industry remains a hostile environment for LGBT+ people, with around 50% of LGBT+ construction workers stating they have heard a homophobic or transphobic insult in their industry in the past 12 months, with that figure rising to 60% under LGBT+ engineers. The continued prevalence has prompted #BuildingEquality to call on sector leaders to themselves come to the table to discuss homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and the value of diversity and inclusion (EDI) within their industry.

Mott MacDonald themselves announced plans to drive up diversity among its ranks in the UK earlier this year. Their EDI action plan for 2017-2018 will identify areas in which improvements can be made by its Advance Employee Network.

Commenting on Mott MacDonald’s commitment to transform their culture in favour of EDI within the firm and the wider industry, Manager Richard Chapman-Harris said, “All people perform better when they can be themselves. Ensuring LGBT+ inclusion is actively supported at work means better business. Knowing your colleagues and clients value your whole self is important for collaboration and innovation – key values to the engineering and construction industries. Mott MacDonald is proud to be joining the #BuildingEquality group again this year and look forward to further collaboration on EDI across the industry.”

Arcadis meanwhile have seen a dramatic improvement in their EDI since 2011, having moved up Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index by 159 places since then. The firm made inclusive HR and leadership practices a priority to achieve this, according to Barbra Carlisle, Arcadis' Diversity and Inclusion Lead, who arrived at the consultancy that year. "When I joined, Arcadis was not known as a LGBT+ friendly employer and we realised that because of this, we were missing out on an enormous amount of talent. The group has had successes already, including equality proofing our HR family friendly policies, and working with industry colleagues as part of the #BuildingEquality in Construction group."

Also part of the 350+ people representing #BuildingEquality at this year’s Pride march in London were staff from Arup. The firm have been committed in the long-term to promote diversity in the building sector, and were presented with a Star Performer Network Group award by Stonewall in 2014.

Zach Wilcox, Chair of Connect Out, Arup's campaign to diversify the building industry, said, "A diverse and inclusive workforce in the construction and engineering industry is important to create buildings and plan places for people from all walks of life who use them. #BuildingEquality is working to make sure that LGBT+ people can share their unique perspectives at work as well, so we are designing buildings and creating cities that reflect our diversity.”


Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.