By Tricia Arenson, Chief Diversity and Productivity Officer
June marks a month of celebration, recognition, and reflection for the LGBTQ+ community.
For leaders in the digital infrastructure industry, it should also be a reminder of how far we have to go in terms of improving conditions and creating opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride belongs in the workplace. When individuals are encouraged and empowered to bring their full selves to work, it makes for a more fulfilling career, diverse workforce, and positive organisational culture.
Being accepted in the workplace inspires us to contribute. We feel more confident about sharing ideas, collaborating with others, and have conviction in our own skillsets.
This sentiment is echoed by Lisa McIntyre, Associate Director at Linesight and Patricia Dziuk, Principal of WBE Contractor LLC and Founder of Above Glass Ceilings LLC who have spoken about the challenges and opportunities for people in the LGBTQ+ community carving out careers in the construction industry.
“Working in a male dominated industry, there’s limited representation at leadership level,” shares Lisa. “There’s no real template for progression.”
According to the bureau of labor statistics, only 11% of construction industry workers are women. While these surveys don’t include the LGBTQ+ community, a limited number of women in the industry suggests diversity still isn’t prioritised. This lack of representation is something Pat identifies with;
“I was often the only woman in the room at the start of my career. It was ridiculously hard at times to have my voice heard, and apply my talent. Why would you look at the quiet woman in the room when there’s a whole room full of men?”
LGBTQ+ women don’t have the luxury of a template in construction. As a male dominated industry, leadership teams tend to be straight white males. Now, as the industry faces a talent drought, leaders should use this opportunity to seek out diverse hires.
Commenting on how that can be achieved, Lisa points out some of the ongoing initiatives that are leading the way:
“We need to continue to bring awareness to diversity and inclusion, and continue the initiatives from people like Tricia Arneson at Yondr and Christina Matthews at Linesight. Things like courageous conversations around neurodiversity, around LGBTQ+, around mental health. There’s been lots of great feedback, and people are feeling a sense of inclusivity.”
Speaking on the experiences of LGBTQ+ women, Pat believes the industry needs to shift away from a ‘what women can do’ and ‘what women can’t do’ attitude.
“Women need to feel that they belong in the industry. You can’t wake up in your home, or drive to work, or enter an educational facility, or see the arts in person without a contractor being involved. It’s a noble profession, and women belong here too.”
It’s not enough to hire in diversity, where the support systems and opportunities to develop don’t exist for those communities. Despite the obstacles, there is excitement and optimism about the future.
“Year on year, the marginalisation gap is closing.” Lisa continues, “At junior levels, we’re seeing more of a diverse group, but that hasn’t been carried through to leadership level yet. I’m excited to see more diversity in the industry. But that starts with increasing awareness, bringing the LGBTQ+ community on this journey, and providing mentoring and opportunities for growth.”
Instead of adding a rainbow to your logo this month, start building a more inclusive workplace for the LGBTQ+ community. Fill your pipeline with dynamic, diverse talent, and give a voice to those who need it most.
To recap, leaders should focus their attention on: