In today’s world, it’s almost a given that businesses should work towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This has meant that business leaders have started to recognise that those from minority groups should be able to take their places as meaningful members of the workforce. Despite this, many firms overlook whether they’re creating a work environment attractive to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A sector deserving of particular focus is the property industry, in which previously just two employers within the sector had made LGBTQ+ organisation Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index top 100 list. Thankfully, this has now risen to seven on the 2020 index.
But there is still lots more to be done. LGBTQ+ History Month in February provides an opportunity to examine more closely what the workplace is like for property professionals in the UK and what we can do to improve the situation for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
There has to be a continued and strengthened push to make sure that the property sector remains conscious of its treatment of LGBTQ+ community members both within and outside of the workplace. Levels of acceptance are not consistent across the industry. The entire sector needs to take real action to create an inclusive environment that encourages and allows a diverse workforce to be their authentic selves and feel comfortable in the workplace.
It is of concern that trust in the workplace is not high. For instance, as many as 77% of survey respondents in a 2018 survey carried out by the Government Equalities Office did not report serious incidents of negative behaviour towards them based on their sexuality – the reason being that they felt that no action would be taken against the perpetrators. The same survey identified the issues of most concern to the LGBTQ+ community in the work environment: the unauthorised disclosure of a person’s sexuality or gender to others; inappropriate comments or conduct; and verbal harassment and insult.
Another worry is that fewer respondents are coming out at work or to clients than used to be the case. This highlights the risk that LGBTQ+ community members may feel like they need to hide a fundamental part of who they are. A survey carried out in 2021 revealed a significant drop compared with higher figures previously of people who state that their firm provided a safe place for LGBTQ+ people to come out. The community also believes that more should be done to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace – and the figures reveal that the number who think that not enough is being done has declined over the past two years.
If we want to attract people to the property industry, we must create an environment where they feel comfortable expressing their own identities. Facilitating a genuinely inclusive property sector requires a culture of learning, allyship and acceptance. As an industry, we should be having open and honest discussions about these issues and how to solve them.
All in the property and related industries must prioritise well-being and mental health. If we create an environment where we have greater visibility of LGBTQ+ role models, we can inspire others from the community and showcase the sector as an attractive career path. But, most importantly, organisations within the industry need to take decisive action against any harmful incidents targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community which occur in the workplace.
By Scott Parsons, board member of LGBTQ+ real estate networking forum, Freehold.