Engineering equality: LGBT stories from ICE

ICE shares experiences of LGBTQ+ engineers.

Stories of LGBT engineers.
Stories of LGBT engineers.

What it’s like to be an LGBT+ engineer working within the construction industry 

ICE members Jyoti Sehdev and Richard Totty join the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) Podcast to discusses their experience in the industry, along with Fiona Connor, lead project geologist at Applied Geology. 

Hosted by ICE Fellow and chair of FPS Steve Hadley, the episode explores coming out at work, how to become a better ally, and the importance of senior leadership support. 

Listen to the episode here:

By Jemma Ralphs, 18 March 2021
LGBT History Month was started in the UK by Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick as a Schools OUT UK project, which first took place in February 2005.

The Month is intended to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against the LGBT community while celebrating its achievement and diversity and making it more visible.
Julian Phatarfod

‘Everyone is an ally to someone else in a different way’

Engineering organisations are “digging deeper” when it comes to LGBT+ awareness, according to an engineer at WSP.

“We’re seeing organisations in engineering and the built environment moving beyond the surface of diversity with simple awareness-raising campaigns, but digging deeper into exploring intersectionality, the (re)definition of gender, being an active bystander,” said Julian Phatarfod, principal transport planner at WSP.

“We’re seeing the status quo of our people, processes and systems being challenged.”

For Phatarfod, the key thing he's learned over the past couple of years is that “everyone is an ally to someone else in a different way and appreciating that is the first step” to levelling the playing field.

The pandemic has been a challenge and an opportunity

Phatarfod acknowledged that the pandemic has presented a few challenges for the LGBT+ community.

“Minority groups such as the LGBT+ community often have to look beyond their immediate household or community to feel included, which is rather difficult when we can’t leave our immediate household or community,” he said.

This means that organisations will need to make an even greater effort to make people feel included.

“However, we’ve also seen a lot more understanding and compassion from colleagues and clients about people’s different circumstances and living arrangements while working from home,” Phatarfod said.

“Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is at the core of inclusion, which has been a positive step for a lot of our efforts.

Covid-19 has led to a fall in LGTB membership and networks

Jyoti Sehdev

LGBT representatives in the engineering industry have seen a worrying fall in LGBT membership activity and networks due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Jyoti Sehdev, senior civil engineer and Group Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead  at Costain, told ICE: "I know that it's not just Costain, as I've spoken to many other chairs of LGBT networks and it's something that we're seeing across the industry as well.

"There's really a question there of how we can get active membership. That includes all the networks who are allies as well, to really get involved with making our industry and our workplaces a better, safer, and more inclusive place for LGBT people."


"Another significant change ... I think there's greater representation of the underrepresented ...Trans inclusion is unfortunately still not normalised or fully understood, but we are seeing companies taking steps towards it.

Jyoti Sehdev

Cancelled: parades, not Pride

All the usual Pride celebrations and parades in the UK have obviously had to be cancelled over the past year, and possibly this year, too. Sehdev said that this has changed the focus of Pride activities. 

"I think we've seen that Pride celebrations be de-centralised from the actual parade itself, and the inclusion events are more about inclusion and history of LGBT people and their allies.

"LGBT History Month and Pride months, as well as other awareness days, have taken the forefront, which I think is important, and I think it brings to light the other aspects of being LGBT+," she said.


Attend: an online event

Building Equality, the LGBT+ Construction Working Group, is running a series of free online talks and panels throughout the month.

Building Equality – A Year in Review

4 February |15.00

2020 presented a host of new challenges and opportunities for Building Equality – from Covid-19 and social distancing to the increased spotlight on intersectionality and Black Lives Matter.

In this special panel session, you'll hear from the Building Equality Executive Committee – about their key learnings from 2020, how the year has changed their approach and what needs to happen going forward.

Find out more

Allies Toolbox Talk Launch

18 February |15.00

Join Building Equality Greater Manchester as they launch the Allies Toolbox Talk, which aims to support allyship of the LGBTQ+ community. One of the speakers will be ICE North West member Kathleen Harrison.

The free resource explores how you can ‘live’ being an ally, through useful hints and tips, and how your organisation can facilitate allyship to create inclusive work environments.

Find out more

LGBT fact card on leadership

LGBTQ+ History and Me

24 Feb | 17.00

This teatime talk, facilitated by Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders, founder of LGBT History Month, will discuss the month-long video series, submitted by Building Equality members, on how historical and cultural moments of LGBTQ+ history have impacted our worlds - from The Stonewall Riots, Section 28 and same-sex marriage to Paris is Burning, The L-Word and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Find out more


Watch: how to support LGBT+ employees in construction

ICE North West representative on the Building Equality Greater Manchester Committee talks about how to support LGBT+ colleagues.

Watch: 'I'm an engineer, but I'm also...'