The architectural industry is becoming increasingly supportive and inclusive of sexual orientation minorities of LGBTQIA+ individuals within the profession. However, some students and employees have uncovered experiencing homophobic and transphobic attitudes in some parts of the industry in the workplace to this day.
Most architects part of the LGBTQIA+ community have accepted feeling more comfortable in their sexuality when surrounded by colleagues or course mates when compared to the workplaces in the rest of the industry. There was a higher sense of inclusion and acceptance during the course compared to other moments in the professional journey. Depending on the environment and circumstances the LGBTQIA community has varying comfortability in their sexual orientation. Surveys show that LGBTQIA and especially gay employees are more efficient and productive in the tasks at their job when they can be more open about their sexuality in the workplace.
Some of the LGBTQIA community believe that there is still an unspoken discomfort in the industry and others felt that their sexual orientation started creating barriers for them in the workplace, for example when socialising and when given work-related opportunities.
Figures from studies and surveys suggest that the architectural industry is now more LGBTQIA friendly but with a few long-standing notions from the past that make it harder for the LGBTQIA community to break stereotypes and successfully fulfil their roles in the workplace of this profession. Its previous identification as an ‘alpha-male industry’ and the fact that even straight women have issues regarding gender bias and validation within the profession highlights that the LGBTQIA+ community continues to encounter difficulties in the occupational field.
The experiences of LGBTQIA architects differ depending on the region of the workplace and the role of the individual. There have been reports from the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who identify as gay, that they experience direct offensive behaviour and comments relating to their sexual orientation which make them feel unaccepted and like more of a minority than they are, due to the conservative attitudes of their surroundings.
Starting off as an LGBTQ architect in a practice situated in an area outside of central London can be particularly difficult and isolating due to the delay in adopting these new ideas of inclusivity that are key to a thriving society.
The LGBTQIA+ community of architects are generally comfortable with their sexual orientation with colleagues but become more self-conscious when visiting clients or attending events on behalf of their practice or firm. Construction sites with contractors and builders are a challenge for some LGBTQIA individuals as there have been incidents where insulting and derogatory terms were used against them. These individuals believe there is still a homophobic attitude with certain client companies and construction organisations, which leads to a different treatment and varying levels of respect.
This is due to the current studio culture being inclusive of LGBTQIA employees contrasting to the construction industry which is still stuck in embracing previous stereotypes of set roles for certain people.
A lack of diversity and representation within the field is also a key reason the individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community feel undervalued or isolated as a minority group when they enter the professional world. They may feel a certain pressure to blend in and behave like their colleagues, ultimately losing their individuality and decreasing their satisfaction and achievements within the architectural profession. The poor visibility of people of a sexual minority causes them to feel discouraged in their careers, especially if there isn’t anyone in a senior or leadership position within the practice.
LGBTQIA+ role models within the architectural profession would increase awareness of sexual orientation issues in the industry while also encouraging and welcoming graduate architects to enter the field. The increased visibility of LGBTQIA+ employees and professionals could increase the community’s confidence, while most importantly changing the face of the industry for the better. To be inclusive of all individuals, regardless of their background, race or sexual orientation.