As BAM participates for the first time in Pride, Barbara Cahalane says there’s more to do to create a culture where everyone in BAM can be open about their sexuality.

It’s great that BAM Construct UK along with other BAM companies is participating in Pride in Manchester and London this year.
However, I have been working in BAM for 11 years and, by now, I know hundreds of my colleagues by name, at least, but I don’t personally know of any male colleagues who are gay. So I wonder what all of us in BAM can do to make it easier for gay men in BAM to be open about their sexuality (if they want to be.)

We’ve been making good progress on diversity of late. Women are progressing through our business; there’s a programme of unconscious bias training underway for our senior managers; we’ve being doing great work on mental health awareness. Last year, two of my female colleagues married their girlfriends and it was great to see workmates celebrating with them. Attitudes are changing for the better.

But my concern is that, in 2016, when we asked staff in our company in a confidential, anonymous, survey to indicate their sexual orientation a small number of respondents identified as a bi-sexual man, but no one identified as a gay man. 8.6% of respondents selected the option ‘prefer not to say’. I would guess that many other companies in the construction sector would report similar findings.

So are there no gay men in our company? I doubt it. 1,739 men work in BAM Construct UK. The latest research from the Office for National Statistics shows that 1.5% of men in the UK identify as gay. Nowadays, in the UK, MPs, journalists, actors, lawyers, - even rugby players - openly identify their sexual orientation and no one bats an eyelid, and nor should they.

But, sadly, it’s still not like that in the construction industry. In a survey conducted last year by Construction News, 54.1% of respondents said they did not feel comfortable being open about their gender identity/or sexuality when visiting a construction site. We are doing a bit better than that in BAM. In 2016 we asked our staff in a poll: “Would a gay man feel comfortable where you work?” 77% replied yes and 23% no.

A person’s identity is complex and made up of multiple strands. I believe no one should have to reveal his or her sexual orientation, if s/he does not want to. We all have experiences at times that make us feel as if we are on the outside. As a single woman in her late fifties, I still feel uncomfortable when couples ask me why I have never married, as if I have failed in some way to conform to an expected norm. I can see how much more difficult it must be for a man who – day-in-day-out – feels he has to conceal part of who he is when he’s at work. We know that prolonged discomfort of this kind – a feeling of being on the outside – can be a contributor to poor mental health.

Participating in Pride is a good way of publicly demonstrating BAM Construct UK’s commitment to becoming a more open and diverse company.

And I hope it will inspire all of us in BAM Construct UK to keep on working towards a culture in our company where everyone can be open about their sexuality.

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