An item in CC's newsletter last week noted that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Construction, by far the most gender-imbalanced field, is also the only industry with a share of women below 10%.” That’s a shame during a time when the construction industry is dying for good workers. More women would probably take good-paying construction jobs if they felt they were welcome.
But then after reading Architect editor Ned Cramer’s recent editorial, “When the Boss Wants You Dead,” I got to wondering about how many gay workers there are on construction jobsites and how they are treated. Do you have LGBT workers on your jobs? You may say that you don’t know or care but if you do have gay workers I bet there are very few who are “out.”
We all know how it can be in construction. Certainly there are many job sites today where everyone from the super to the laborer treats one another with respect, but anti-gay bias persists and it would be difficult to be openly gay. In Cramer’s editorial, written in the aftermath of Orlando, he said, “It is well-proven that hate speech promotes hate crimes. So say what you want, but please, watch what you say. Intolerance and the threat of violence don’t just occur somewhere on the lunatic fringe. They’re a reality in our schools and workplaces.”
The standard thing to say is that we should be tolerant of people who are different, whether it’s racial, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. That’s a good start, but one of the best ideas I heard come out of the Democratic National Convention was from N.J. Senator Cory Booker, who insisted that tolerance is not enough, that we need to value others and welcome diversity.
“Tolerance says, I’m just going to tolerate your right to be different,” said Booker, “but if you disappear from the face of the earth I’m no better or worse off. But love knows that every American has worth and value and no matter what their background, no matter what their race or religion or sexual orientation, love recognizes that we need each other. That we as a nation are better together. When we are divided we are weak, when we are together we are strong, when we are indivisible we are invincible. This is the idea of love that is embodied in an African saying: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
This is all a part of the change that is taking place across the construction industry and the change that must continue. The old wild-west feeling of a job site with offensive graffiti in the toilets and little regard for the emotional or physical well-being of workers is thankfully becoming a thing of the past. We should encourage this professionalism in all aspects of our jobs and view all of our coworkers as important parts of a team that can only go far together.