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How New Practice works to support its LGBTQ+ employees

Words:
Marc Cairns

Women and LGBTQ+ led New Practice is proactive about inclusion, fostering a culture where all its staff feel able to express themselves freely

The New Practice team. Among them is Emma Burke Newman, who sadly passed away in January.
The New Practice team. Among them is Emma Burke Newman, who sadly passed away in January.

There is a common perception that because LGBTQ+ people have achieved some legal equalities, they face no issues at work. But many in architecture still feel that they have to pretend to be somebody they are not, or hide parts of their lives to succeed. When Becca Thomas and I set up our practice in 2019 we weren’t particularly explicit about it being women- and queer-led, but as our understanding of those challenges grew we realised that it was important to be louder about it, and to take an active role in raising awareness.

Many aspects of working life can feel ‘othering’, often in subtle ways. HR policies might assume traditional nuclear families, but some LGBTQ+ people who don’t have children might have very important relationships with chosen families. Those should be treated in the same way as other personal commitments. Likewise there are issues of physical or mental health that are particularly prevalent within the community, but can be difficult to raise. While it’s worth reviewing policy, a tick-box approach is insufficient; employers need to make the time to get to know employees as individuals, fostering a culture in which people can freely express their needs.

All our staff put our pronouns in emails; that way, anyone can assert their gender identity without being an exception

Practices can be proactive too. All of our staff put our pronouns in emails; that way, anyone can assert their gender identity without being an exception. And directors will intervene forcefully when those are not respected or if, for example, comments are made about how people choose to dress. It’s not about ‘cancelling’ people for making mistakes – we all do – but being clear that staff will always be supported and protected in being themselves.

Marc Cairns is the Managing Director of New Practice

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