Taking Pride in the Rainbow of Construction Management
by Iesh Dixit on June 26, 2021
“I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too'.” - Jason Collins, American former professional basketball player.
“The construction industry is still fraught with lots of folks who do not accept other people. But if we are the leaders and the catalysts, and we use active caring in the process, eventually cultures change.” – Peter J. Davoren, Turner Construction CEO
Hope you all had an amazing Pride Month. With the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who became the highest-ranking government official to endorse marriage equality, we can quote Dylan and say “Times They Are a Changin” and this time it’s changing for good. The American President organised Pride Month in a presidential proclamation. This was to show his support for the Equality Act.
Pride is Power
The construction industry in India has made a lot of progress over the past decade to become more inclusive of women and minority groups.
We at Powerplay believe that inclusiveness is not only about sexuality, it is about thinking what mainstream society does not. Great strides can be achieved when we move out of conventional mindsets, break out of accepted norms that’s got no logical basis and make inclusive designs. It is the essence of the post pandemic era.
LGBTQ do not require special treatment; they need to feel included in a culture that does not discriminate. Choices of words, banters, jokes that has slightest connotation of discrimination should be met with zero tolerance and penalised. This surgical way to bring a change at an initial level can be debated but not ignored. This approach is core to business sustainability as well. According to a recent study by financial services company Credit Suisse, ‘striving toward a full framework of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is both pro-LGBT and pro-business.’
In September 2018, India’s Supreme Court struck down section 377 of India’s penal code, a colonial-era law that penalized consensual same-sex relations. Homophobia is a colonial imposition by the British and after 70 years Section 377 was scrapped. Same-sex relationships was decriminalised and Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 was created.
Steps have been taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to include transgender persons in paramilitary forces which has undoubtedly been a landmark moment for our country and its inclusive work culture.
An important development for India in D&I (Diversification and Inclusiveness) policy is the launch of the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) – a benchmarking tool in the country for different organizations to measure their LGBTQ+ inclusion progress in an Indian context.
This has been brought out by a partnership between Stonewall - the largest LGBT Rights organization in Europe, the Keshav Suri Foundation and Pride Circle, India. It requires organizations to submit information regarding how they have included LGBTQ+ inclusion practices and policies in their daily work processes. This is followed by assessment on a framework, which is based on the Workplace Equality Index of the United Kingdom (created by Stonewall itself).
United We Stand
According to mottmac.com, 2/5 lesbian, gay and bisexual in the construction industry do not feel comfortable about discussing their sexual orientations with their colleagues. People with homophobia and transphobia are problematic elements in any industry and the construction industry is not an exception. According to bdcnetwork.com, in 2020, in US, 53% of LGBTQ workers report overhearing “gay” as an insult in the workplace. Jokes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are still all too common. According to catalyst.org, in a June 2021 study, globally, 40% of the industries in which LGBTQ employees hold jobs are those, where employees face more exposure to infection and/or economic insecurity. During the pandemic, 12% of the LGBTQ + community became unemployed, 2 million from the community are in restaurants and food services and 1 million work in hospitals.
In 2016, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (US) estimated that LGBT-owned businesses contributed $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and created 33,000 jobs.
Heterosexual audiences scrutinise the companies for human rights, equality and diversity record and inclusiveness that allows people from various talent pools. This ensures that no one is left behind. Therefore, top level management in the construction industry need to speak out and not be silent. Silence is in itself a message - that you support the negative stereotyping prevalent in all industries, not just in construction.
Many organizations have started the concept of Employee Resource Groups, such as GLEAM (Gay & Lesbian Employees at Microsoft) at Microsoft, and BGLAD (the LGBTQ Network at Bain & Bridgespan) at Bain & Company. CEOs of dozens of construction firms including Mortenson, JE Dunn, Autodesk, Performance Contracting Co. and Burns and McDonnell, have signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge. The focus is on cultivating workplaces that support open dialogue for difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion.
Construction is not about Swinging Hammers
In US last year the Supreme Court ruled out LGBTQ individuals cannot be fired because of their sexuality or gender identification. Let’s break the stereotype that construction management workers are only skilled at swinging hammers and face the fact – innovation, creativity, design sense, details – these are more important than ever. Physical prowess can be replaced by robots.
There is no New Normal without Inclusiveness
The new normal cannot be embraced without diversification in teams and inclusiveness. HR policies in all organisations need to be restructured. Equal benefits need to be extended for the rainbow (LGBTQ) employees just as any other employee in the workplace thus setting the norms for the organization to be inclusive. Training is required for the other employees to be more welcoming towards the LGBTQ+ community and strict rules have to be set in place to counter cases of disparity.
Symbol of Change
In its 2018 report “Delivering Through Diversity”, McKinsey & Co. showed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity (including LGBTQ+) on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. This indicates that inclusivity “of highly diverse individuals can be a key differentiator among companies,” the report says.
We in construction management not only welcome but dive into every possible policy and framework that empowers and encourages diversity and inclusiveness. June is not just Pride Month, it is a symbol of change, creativity and collaboration.