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Homophobia costs engineering £11.2bn a year

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Report published by conservative MP highlights "prevalence" of homophobia in industry and analyses its economic impact



A conservative MP and mechanical engineer has published a report to address the issue of homophobia in Engineering.

The report, entitled 'Engineering Action: Tackling Homophobia in Engineering' was authored and published by MP Alec Shelbrooke and co-authored by Dr Mark McBride-Wright, chair and co-founder of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) industry group InterEngineering.

InterEngineering is supported by IMechE's Equality and Diversity Steering group (EDSG), which advises the IMechE in developing a more inclusive engineering profession.

According to the report, £11.2 billion a year is lost due to bullying and pressures on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers in the workplace.

The £11.2 billion loss is based on the results of a survey conducted and published earlier this year by the London and South East Group of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. The survey found that of 279 respondents from their Group, 6% described themselves as LGBT and that 53% of this LGBT group were not open about their sexuality in their workplace.

The loss was then calculated by assuming 'closeted' LGBT individuals are 30% less productive than they could be, and combining this with information about the number of engineers in the UK and their contribution to the economy. The report can be read here.

Shelbrooke said: "This report not only highlights the prevalence of homophobia in the engineering industry, but also lays out a proactive approach for the sector to tackle this issue head-on.

“The basis of this report is to recommend that homophobic attitudes can be transformed through proactive, educational teamwork and leadership. Companies that have adopted such an approach have seen up to a 30% increase in productivity from openly LGBT employees as a direct result of a happier and more cohesive workplace. 

Welcoming the report, former Chief Executive of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley said: “As a graduate trainee engineer at BP in the 1960s, it was immediately obvious to me that being gay in business and most definitely in the oil business, was unacceptable.

"This report explores the consequences of failing to create an inclusive work environment. It shows that when people are not comfortable bringing their whole selves to work they do not engage and productivity suffers as a result”.

Co-author of the report, McBride-Wright, said: “Progress and acceptance within the workplace for those in the LGBT community is hindered by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language, both in the office and on site. For example, using 'gay' as an expression denoting something negative. I have experienced this. It may be casual banter for some, but for me it resonates with childhood bullying and must be challenged and stopped.

He added: "A series of recommendations are presented at the end of this report which serves as a call-to-arms for engineering firms, engineering institutes and the Government to address LGBT inclusion in engineering. 

"Engineering firms and institutions should implement the suggestions listed in the report and the Government should actively seek for firms to do this in order to affect change."

"Companies can help shape their employees to be better rounded individuals, and education is key. Homophobic bullying is rife in our schools, and we are all role models to those around us. The more people challenge negative language and behaviour, the more likely we are to eradicate homophobic language at schools and at work."

 

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