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Coming out and staying in industry: How sexual orientation and gender identity matters in construction employment

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Over the last three years, the New Civil Engineer, Architects' Journal and Construction News have conducted a survey investigating the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers in the sector. The surveys reveal that homophobia is commonplace in the construction industry and few feeling that they could be open about their sexuality in the workplace. In this review paper, the authors explore the theoretical and empirical explanations for the apparent institutionally homophobic situation of the sector. A key concern is what are the experiences of LGBT people and in what ways do gender/sexual identity present challenges in working lives? The results reveal the importance of sexuality in the reproduction of social relations in construction, the nature of sexualised banter and physical harassment of LGBT workers. The cultural landscape represents a toxic environment for those who do not conform to the white, male, heterosexual stereotype of the construction worker and the homosocial relations that surround it. Furthermore, the review demonstrates how research has evolved to now present a critical perspective on how gender and sexualities are performed in organisational contexts. The results presented set the agenda for empirical explorations of the experiences of workers in the sector.

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Policing is an occupation that is gendered and sexualized. Ideals of heterosexual masculinity inform practices and social interactions within policing. This study explores how police officers manage a homosexual orientation within this organizational environment. Using qualitative survey responses from a sample of “out” and “closeted” gay and lesbian police officers in a Midwestern city, the authors examine (1) how heterosexual, masculine police organizations inform their experiences; (2) how officers construct multiple identities of sexual orientation, gender, and race-ethnicity; and (3) what strategies officers utilize to manage their homosexual orientation in the workplace. The authors are interested in how multiple identities involving race-ethnicity, gender, and “out” versus “closeted” status shape officers’ strategies for surviving in a potentially hostile work environment. The findings suggest that these officers support a more humane approach to policing and see themselves as particularly qualified to work within marginal communities. Despite the structural barriers of homophobia and sexism that tempered these officers’ full acceptance and access to the police subculture, lesbian and gay officers struggled to balance job demands with their sexual orientation, gender, race-ethnicity, and other dimensions of their identities.
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Several European universities provide entry to general engineering studies prior to degree specialisation. The potential advantages of such entry include the provision of a broader foundation in engineering fundamentals, the option for students to defer specialisation until a greater awareness of the different engineering disciplines and the preparation of students for a more versatile career. In this paper, the attractiveness of general engineering (specifically in the first year of study) is explored through a national (UK) survey on pre-university students. Attention is given to gauging student enthusiasm for flexibility in engineering specialisation, combined degree options and exposure to other non-technical courses. The findings indicate that a general engineering programme is highly attractive to students who are currently considering an engineering degree. The programme is also attractive to some students who had previously not considered engineering. For both sets of students, the desire for education on broader topics is indicated, specifically in areas of leadership, teamwork and business skills, and more generally self-awareness and personal development.
Article
Despite sustained efforts to promote engineering careers to young women, it remains the most male-dominated academic discipline in Europe. This paper will provide an overview of UK data and research on women in engineering higher education, within the context of Europe. Comparisons between data from European countries representing various regions of Europe will highlight key differences and similarities between these nations in terms of women in engineering. Also, drawing on qualitative research the paper will explore UK students’ experiences of gender, with a particular focus on the decision to study engineering and their experiences in higher education.
Article
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to consider whether lesbians may experience an “advantage” in non-traditionally female work compared to heterosexual women, but argues for an intersectional approach to understanding the relationship between gender, sexuality and class in male-dominated work. Design/methodology/approach – The research uses semi-structured interviews with women working transport and construction, focusing here on an analysis of 13 interviews with lesbian workers, eight working in transport and five in construction, representing both professional/managerial and skilled manual occupations. Findings – The paper considers the question of whether lesbians may experience an “advantage” in non-traditionally female work compared to heterosexual women, but finds that their experience is complicated by other factors such as ethnicity, class and organisational culture. Organisational response and practice in relation to sexual orientation is found to be equally significant in shaping the realities of working lives for lesbians in traditionally male work. Research limitations/implications – The findings in this paper are based on an analysis of interviews with lesbians drawn from a larger research project examining the experience of both heterosexual and lesbian women working in the transport and construction sectors. Originality/value – The paper addresses a gap in the literature on lesbian experience in non-traditionally female work and aims to contribute to knowledge of the diversity of lesbian experience through examining the working lives of lesbians in both professional and skilled manual roles.
Article
Transgender issues in the workplace represent the bleeding edge of the cutting edge in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) diversity human rights movement. By becoming aware of the issues involved and conceptualizing interventions to help managers as well as employees, HRD can add value to the organization, fostering social equity as well as organizational effectiveness.This article will provide a backdrop for HRD scholars and practitioners to understand the myriad of considerations involved in this emergent workplace issue.
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For women in male-dominated occupations, the gender beliefs and expectations of men co-workers create dilemmas for constructing and managing an occupational identity. Women often find themselves in a double bind where they are held accountable to contradictory expectations for a feminine presentation of self and a masculine performance of work. While previous research demonstrates the strength of gender double binds in constraining women’s actions and reproducing the dominant gender system, I argue that these conditions also create possibilities for resistance and change. Based on data from in-depth interviews with women who work in the building trades, this study examines the relationship between structural constraints and women’s agency in their response to normative constructions of gender. Rather than being forced into choosing between a stereotypically ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ role, tradeswomen manipulate gender rules by engaging in reflexive gender displays that emphasize the most advantageous identity for each situation.
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Outlines the lack of legal protection for lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens. Provides reasons for the employers to adopt specific policies in the absence of such laws to protect such individuals. Outlines the few areas which have laws affecting these individuals. Describes the characteristics of a “gay friendly” workplace. Concludes that the number of companies adopting such practices will increase as they understand the benefits.
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Part I of this paper (in Volume 1, Issue 1) presented fieldwork observations about everyday interactions in engineering workplace cultures, which tend to make it easier for men than for women to build working relationships and to ‘belong’ in engineering. This second part extends the analysis, by examining the ‘in/visibility paradox’ whereby women engineers are simultaneously highly visible as women yet invisible as engineers. This paradox is a key to understanding how women engineers experience engineering workplace cultures, and a major factor underlying the poor retention and progression of women in engineering. Women engineers' invisibility as engineers is evident in the greater effort required of them to be taken seriously as ‘real engineers’ and the undermining of confidence which can ensue. Their visibility as women brings contradictory pressures – to be ‘one of the lads’ but at the same time ‘not lose their femininity’. These in/visibility dynamics have a significant cumulative effect, not least because they are subtle and taken for granted. To understand why they occur, the study proposes a related concept – gender in/authenticity – to capture the apparent congruence or non-congruence of gender and engineering identities for men and women engineers. This concept gives us a wider perspective on why gender norms are slow to change in engineering, and on how gender change might be achieved in engineering workplaces.
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There is currently very little research to support the popularly held claim that “closeted” homosexual workers will have a less positive work-related attitude and no empirical investigation of companies that prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexuality. This study used data from a survey of 744 homosexual employees to determine the relationships of reported disclosure of sexual orientation, anti-discrimination policies and top management support for equal rights with relevant work attitudes. All three independent variables were found to be significantly related to affective organizational commitment and conflict between work and home. Additionally, anti-discrimination policies and top management support were related to job satisfaction. However, none of the independent variables were significantly associated with continuance organizational commitment or job stress. It is suggested that human resource managers concerned with integrating gay and lesbian employees begin by educating top managers and creating a work environment in which disclosure of homosexual orientation is supported.
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Over the last few decades social identities have grown in importance, 'sexual orientation' and 'national identity' being the latest to join the fold. While all jostle for official recognition, which of these identity groups is monitored - and in what settings - is of practical importance. Respondent burden, concerns about confidentiality and disclosure, and the lack in some cases of benchmark data raise issues around the feasibility of monitoring multiple 'equality strands'. As most organisations have limited capacity to undertake such analysis, a broader repertoire of approaches needs to be considered if this process is to be more than a meaningless bureaucratic exercise.
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This paper is about 'coming out' and the process of disclosure and non-disclosure of minority sexual identity in organizations. The process of 'coming out' is impor- tant for the individual lesbian or gay man since it is concerned with the discursive recognition and renegotiation of their identity. The study uses storytelling and a double narrative approach, where 92 individuals were interviewed to produce 15 stories of coming out, which were used for discussion in focus groups. The research took place within 6 organizations - 2 emergency services, the police and the fire service, 2 civil service departments and 2 banks. A conceptual framework is devel- oped to explain the process of disclosure, showing it to be a continuing process rather than a single event. The concept of performativity is used to explain how in coming out the discursive practice and the telling of sexuality performs the act of coming out, making it an illocutionary speech act, and one which is made as an active or forced choice. The performative and perlocutionary speech acts interact with available subject positions thereby impacting on the individual's subjectivity. Sexuality is an under-researched area of diversity in work organizations, as well as being one of the most difficult to research, so the level of access afforded by this research and the framework it produces provides a significant contribution to our understanding of minority sexual identity at work.