The impact of microaggressions explored in UK property event for BAME and LGBT+ community

LGBT+ and BAME staff shared their experience working in the UK's property sector

The “Double stigma? Being LGBTQ+ and an ethnic minority in the property sector” event explored the experiences of underrepresented property professionals. The speakers discussed the common manifestations of discrimination and why allyship within the largely white and male sector is crucial.

Lady Phyll, Co-founder of UK Black Pride, an organisation supporting the BAME LGBT+ community, opened the event by outlining intersectionality and what Black Lives Matter really means.

“In terms of intersectionality, and how to juggle them, I think it’s really hard to divorce yourself from one particular protected characteristic to another. But there are times where you will see different struggles play out differently.

“So let’s take the analogy of where we’re talking about Black Lives Matter, and you’ve got some people saying ‘but all lives matter’. If you have a burning house on a street, you’re expecting the fire brigade to come and save the people in that burning house. We’re not going to say all houses matter. So actually, let’s start at number one before we get to number 47.”

The impact of microaggressions in the workplace

A major theme of the talk was microaggressions and how they’re experienced by BAME and LGBT+ people at work, where the speaker responses can be applied to improving work culture in any sector.

One way microaggressions can be presented is through workplace “banter”, which can often be thinly veiled racism or another form of discrimination. At the same time, the speakers agreed that experiencing microaggressions can make the victim feel extremely “uncomfortable.”

They agreed that allyship and a peer system is essential where colleagues should stick up for the victim and call out bad behaviour.

Microaggressions can be broken down further into “micro-assaults”, which are more direct, such as calling someone “derogatory names” to “micro-invalidations”, where people say discriminatory things that they may not realise is offensive, like asking if a male employee has a girlfriend without knowing their sexual identity.

The speakers agreed that it was sometimes difficult to confront microaggressions, especially if they were made in a social situation where it often feels inappropriate to intervene. However, they also agreed that confronting the person in a “non-hostile” way to educate them was the best way to approach the situation.

Another particularly dangerous form of microaggression discussed was when colleagues claim a minority person’s career progression is tokenistic and just down to “filling a quota”, whereas when white professionals get promoted, claims of tokenism are rarely heard.

The importance of genuine allyship

The speakers agreed that while things like unconscious-bias training and official D&I policy implementations are important, genuine allyship between colleagues in an organisation is the most effective way to remove microaggressions and the “double stigma” many people experience being LGBT+ and BAME in the workplace.

The speakers said that allies could counter microaggressions by engaging in “micro compliments” in their interactions with ethnic minority and LGBT+ staff, such as asking after a gay colleague’s same-sex partner without misgendering them, as this can make them feel validated and cared about in the workplace.

Another discussion point was the belief that non- LGBT+ and ethnic minority staff should use their privilege and power to stand up for their peers and call out incidences of discrimination when they see it.

They also agreed that it wasn’t wrong for colleagues to ask questions about their identity(s) as long as it came from a genuine place.

While the speakers agreed that there are some members of the LGBT+ community that are happy using their voices to speak up against injustice, others said it isn’t the responsibility of minority groups to educate others about the discrimination they face, and they should speak up only when they feel comfortable.

In terms of making the UK property sector more ethnically diverse, the speakers agreed that accreditation bodies in the property industry should do more to enable international students, many of whom have studied for degrees in the country, to work here full-time.

The organisers of the event were Freehold and BAME in Property; To watch the recording of the event in full, please click here.

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