Leading industry professionals were part of over 70 delegates discussing how to tackle and overcome the prejudices faced by LGBT+ people in surveying during an RICS event held in partnership with Freehold last month.
The fascinating discussion posed some challenging issues, where greater support could be provided by RICS and other institutions. Whilst LGBT professionals in large cities can be involved in networks, and engage with other professionals, this doesn't necessarily extend to smaller towns and rural areas. RICS has a role to play in helping to cultivate a space for people to come together and share experiences whilst building networks.
The five panellists were Antonia Belcher (Founding Partner of MHBC), Samantha McClary (Editor of EG), Jack Sullivan (senior surveyor at CBRE), Brian Bickell (Chief Executive of Shaftesbury) and Sharon Slinger (Director of Constructing Rainbows).
Led by Samantha McClary of EG, each panellist gave honest and inspiring accounts of their experiences and were able to address some of the greater global challenges which exist for LGBT professionals. Attention was given to the transgender community, where misinformation, misunderstanding and prejudice affect them disproportionately. They agreed that greater awareness, understanding and education around trans issues is essential to ensure that this improves, and that both the LGBT community and professional institutions must support and drive change where possible.
The event also raised the issue of visibility of LGBT professionals, it is essential to give people the confidence to come out in the industry. But workplace culture must change further and faster for a workforce to be able to bring their identity to work. Unconscious bias training as an intervention can assist in progressing that cultural change, but this cannot be done in isolation, it must be part of a wider cultural premise that all people, regardless of difference have a contribution to make and successes to achieve.
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Panellist Brian Bickell, Chief Executive of Shaftesbury PLC, and member of the Freehold Board commented: "Freehold provide a welcoming, supportive, and conﬁdential space for LGBT+ real estate professionals to meet, share and discuss views, experiences or concerns. We have over 1,000 members now, but we need more collaborative industry events like the RICS LGBT History Month Panel discussion, to provide a platform to pave the way for a more inclusive sector where a person's sexuality is not an issue in the workplace."
Barry Cullen, RICS Director of Diversity & Inclusion added: "We know that diverse workforces thrive and often perform better than firms with a lack of diverse talent. Therefore, the LGBT+ community is incredibly important to our industry and it's essential that firms support them."
"We had great feedback from this event and we are keen to replicate it in other parts of the UK. There is a definite need to be as inclusive in terms of geography as well as in our approach to creating a diverse industry, where people's differences are celebrated."
PR & Communications Manager (North)
Kim's role is to raise awareness of the work of RICS and chartered surveyors through the organisation's Northern (North West, Yorkshire & Humber and North East) media channels.