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Insights Promoting diversity within the construction industry

Liam Dempsey is an Assistant Engineer within our Transportation business. He joined the Warrington office as a first-year graduate almost three years ago and at the moment, is involved with the design of the East West Rail acoustic barriers and the structural monitoring for the M60 Barton High Level Bridge. 

Earlier this year, Liam was recognised by both Stonewall and Building Equality with the North West Ally of The Year Award for his efforts to promote diversity within the construction industry, particularly on behalf of the LGBT+ community. #InsideAtkins took this opportunity to have a chat with Liam about why supporting the LGBT+ community is important to him and what it means to be an ally.
this is a image of Liam with a drag queen

Earlier this year, you were recognised by Stonewall, an LGBT+ charity and Building Equality, an alliance of companies that support LGBT+ people in the construction industry. How did these achievements come about?

I got involved in promoting diversity in the construction industry, particularly on behalf of the LGBT+ community, because I saw numerous engineering companies marching at Manchester Pride in 2018 and was surprised not to see our business there. Soon after, I reached out to our regional LGBT+ network (Equilibrium) to see if I could assist in getting us involved in Manchester Pride 2019. 

I joined our internal network and became a Manchester Building Equality representative for the Atkins business, which opened up doors to meet like-minded individuals across the construction industry. I was really proud that we were able to contribute funds and get our LGBT+ colleagues marching alongside other construction companies at Manchester Pride last year.

I’ve also been working on our internal diversity and inclusion roadshows. I’ve organised the Warrington and Glasgow events, where I was able to bring together representatives from the other employee networks and give them a platform to discuss key topics with colleagues. 

You’ve been recognised by the industry for your ally-ship. What does being an ally mean and how do allies benefit the LGBT+ community?

this is an image of a team smiling holding an award

An LGBT+ ally is somebody who supports the rights of LGBT+ people, and I believe most people are allies. Personally, I want people to feel comfortable with their sexuality and gender in all aspects of their lives, including their workplace. As the vast majority of people are straight, in order to promote LGBT+ equality in society and workplaces, support is needed from everyone.   

Why is it important to you to be actively involved with the LGBT+ community and to support them?

It’s important to me because I want to educate myself. I feel comfortable at work and therefore, I want other people to have that same comfort. For people to perform to their best ability, they must feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. 

Historically, the construction industry has had a bad reputation and a tendency for graduates to go back into the closet when they start work. This has to change from a mental health and productivity perspective. I hope my ally-ship has helped others, and I’m really keen that my story might motivate others to continue pushing this forward. 

What more do you think we as a business could do to highlight the importance of allyship?

For me, one of the best things the company can do is promote the use of the rainbow lanyards, which is a visible display of acceptance and solidarity towards LGBT+ people. Friends have told me that seeing their colleagues wearing a rainbow lanyard makes them feel more comfortable at work as they know colleagues will accept them for who they truly are. 

I also think it’s important that everyone feels they can talk about LGBT+ issues even if they accidentally say the wrong thing. As a company we need to create that environment, which allows people to become a vocal ally rather than a bystander.