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Video | ‘What’s it like?’ to be LGBT in engineering

LGBT Rainbow laces

A new series of videos profiling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers have been released as part of LGBT History Month.

The videos have been launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering (Academy), InterEngineering and Mott MacDonald and aim to raise awareness of matters affecting the LGBT community.

As part of the month, the ‘What’s it like?’ video series is designed to inspire prospective engineers who are LGBT, as well as existing engineers who may wish to come out or transition at work.

The videos feature twenty successful LGBT role models working in a wide variety of engineering settings, from Balfour Beatty senior planning engineer and a trans female role model Christina Riley to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff structural engineer and openly gay man Diego Padilla Philipps.

Be Yourself

Be Yourself

Riley said that the most challenging part of being transgender was actually her own fear.

“The fear of coming out at work was such a huge level of stress that it’s the inner feelings that can be the biggest challenge,” she said.

“It can have such a big effect on your health and your mental health which then affects your performance at work. Being able to come out in the work place in an environment where it is safe and supportive, that is empowering for you to continue your career and really does give you great opportunities.”

She transitioned in the workplace after the Balfour Beatty LGBT network was set up. She said that the company put in place a fully supported six month plan to allow both herself, her directors and work colleagues to prepare for her transition.

She said that although she had been terrified of her transitioning day and what her colleagues might say, the experience was actually very positive. Riley said that what surprised her the most was going on to construction sites and being treated like a normal person who was there to do her job.

When asked what the biggest challenge in the workplace was Padilla Philipps said: “Being openly gay and banter. Where do you draw the line and how much banter is really fun and when does it become offensive?”

Also featured are Crossrail chairman of the railway assurance board and openly gay man Paul Robins and Amanda McKay, a nuclear quality director and a bisexual trans woman.

The video profiles can be viewed at

InterEngineering said that data on sexual and gender identity was not currently captured in the UK Census, although an accepted estimate is that 6% of the UK population is LGB. Further data shows that about 1% of the UK population are gender non-conforming and that their unemployment rate is three times higher than the national average.

It said that comprehensive data was not available on the proportion of engineers who are LGBT, although a survey conducted in September 2014 by the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the South East diversity and inclusion (D&I) working group with a sample group of 279 engineers found 6% state that they are LGB, reflecting the make-up of the UK population.

Mott MacDonald managing director Mike Haigh said: “Each person profiled in the videos is making a valuable contribution to their field, and demonstrates that you can be LGBT+ and have a happy and successful career in engineering. Raising the profile of LGBT+ employees is crucial in order to further show that if you have a passion for engineering, you should absolutely consider a career in the profession.”


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