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30 OCT 2019

Is the industry LGBTQ+ friendly for graduates?

Each year, September and October is when most graduates traditionally start work following the completion of their undergraduate or post-graduate studies. It is an exciting time starting their career in their chosen profession, gaining further independence, meeting new people, whilst starting to develop their professional experience.

Having left the relaxed liberal environment of university, this can be a stressful time. Graduates will be striving to make a great first impression on their line managers, colleagues and clients.

Sadly, for many LGBTQ+ graduates, it is an even more challenging time as they try and gauge how accepting their industry, company and colleagues are. As a result, up to 60% of graduates go 'back in the closet', despite having become confident and comfortable with their sexuality at university. They must start the whole coming-out process again.

This is always a difficult conversation for fear of what reaction they will get, compounded by worries of discrimination, bullying, negative comments, being overlooked for promotion and trying to fit in with the corporate 'norm'.

cap throw graduate
While graduating is an exciting time in the career of potential young professionals, for LGBTQ+ graduates it is a tricky time, in having to navigate challenges of acceptance in their respective industries

The real estate industry has made great progress in recent years. The creation of support forum Freehold resulted in the LGBTQ+ community in real estate finally having a support network. It has enabled many to build the self-confidence to come out at work, leading to the establishment of many role models within the industry.

Freehold has also acted as a 'bridge', introducing graduates to LGBTQ+ people within their organisation. Having a 'like-minded' ally makes those first few days in a new job much easier. Companies that work hard to have an accepting and inclusive environment make staff feel happier and more comfortable, resulting in a more loyal and productive workforce.

RICS, BPF, Revo and many major employers have been promoting LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion by partnering up with Freehold. This has included speaking opportunities and panel discussions, supporting Freehold at London Pride and 'rainbow washing' logos. Several companies now have their own internal LGBTQ+ networking groups with straight ally supporters, including Savills, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, Knight Frank, British Land, Mace and WSP.

Law firm Travers Smith runs a mentoring scheme in partnership with LGBTQ+ charity Just Like Us. The aim of the scheme is to support LGBTQ+ graduates as they transition to the workplace to be confident in their sexual orientation. Mentees who take part in the scheme are twice as likely to be out at work as a result of being mentored, compared with the national average.

RICS-Freehold LGBT meeting
Support forum Freehold have provided LGBTQ+ individuals within the real estate industry with a support network, helping them navigate the challenges they may face in their working environments

Freehold has its own mentoring scheme that has helped more than 50 people in the last eight years. A meaningful proportion of mentees are under 30 and looking to gain confidence about being out at work.

For LGBTQ+ graduates, there is now increasing security in being open about their sexual orientation at work. Property companies have become more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ staff. If a graduate needs support, they can approach their company's LGBTQ+ network if there is one, RICS and Lionheart, or they can join a professional networking group such as Freehold, Planning Out, Openland in Birmingham or Off Site.

Finally, and perhaps fundamentally, employers and graduate supervisors need to be visible about being LGBTQ friendly. For a graduate this can be invaluable; knowing that the organisation in which they work adopts a diverse and inclusive stance, and is open in doing so, will allow LGBTQ+ graduates to feel relaxed and not shrink back into their shell. This is vital in ensuring a productive employee, as well as heigtening the reputation of a company.

  • Marko Salopek is a member of the RICS, a Freehold board member and a project manager at Clarion Housing Group

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