A leader in the housebuilding industry hopes being open about his own sexuality will encourage LGBTQ+ colleagues to “embrace their authenticity”, and urges those who need support to come forward.
Keith Carnegie, chief executive of Vistry Group’s housebuilding division, admits that although he now feels at ease being himself, that hasn’t always been the case.
“I understand the weight of the burden of not being yourself. I think that every LGBTQ+ person before they come out, feels that weight and, oh my, they’ll feel so much better afterwards than before.”
Keith has been with his husband Michael for over 20 years and they live just outside Pershore, Worcestershire with their wirehaired miniature dachshund, Mash.
“I recognise that I am quite rare as a senior leader in housebuilding – and in the wider construction industry – who is gay and open about it” added Keith.
“I think people are more open with me and will have conversations with me that they may not have been able to have with others. At a work-related dinner dance someone came up to Michael and me to introduce themselves and thanked us both, Michael as much as me, for being visible at those sorts of events and said it had given them the confidence that they could get on within the business.
“For those in the LGBTQ+ community, there is the possibility for people to hide themselves and not be whom they are. That worries me as I want people to realise their full potential – applying all of themselves for their own success. I know the world would be a better place if people could just be who they are.
“If colleagues feel like they’d like to be more open and extroverted – and they can’t be, because of their work environment – they should talk to me or others within the organisation, perhaps the HR department, so, as a business, we can better understand what it is that makes them feel like that and address it.”
With 22 years working in the construction industry, Keith places importance on the light-hearted banter enjoyed on site but recognises that colleagues – especially those in senior roles – need to be mindful of the effect their words can have.
“We spend too much time at work for it to be miserable. As emotional beings - laughter, humour and kindness are beneficial, and we can’t get to a sterile environment where no-one can make a joke.
“People need to be cognisant of the words that they are saying and the higher up in the organisation they are, the more cognisant they’ve got to be. If the banter strays in the direction of being derogatory, it should be challenged – not with a view to stopping the laughter but rather to make people stop and think about the consequences of their words. 99% of people would be horrified of causing pain mindlessly.”
Following an interview with Construction News five years ago, in which Keith said the industry had a “long way to go” when it came to improving attitudes towards LGBTQ+ workers, he agreed things had changed for the better, however we shouldn’t be complacent.
“I think things have changed but there’s an awful lot of potential for more,” Keith explained. “I think there are some organisations that are doing really good things when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusivity. The events of 2020, particularly the world reaction to George Floyd’s death, have made people stop and think and we now need to see actions flow through as a consequence of that introspection.”
Promoting inclusion and diversity has been at the top of the agenda for Vistry. A Diversity & Inclusion Working Group, which has seen colleagues join forces to promote diversity and inclusion across the business, has rolled out a number of initiatives, marking celebrations such as Black History Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, International Women’s Day and Pride Month.
“I deliberately wasn’t on the committee because I didn’t want to distort any of the discussions just because I’m a chief executive. We are looking for feedback from the ground up rather than the top down,” Keith said.
“The business needs to listen and understand discussions that are being had. We want to attract new recruits and help them, alongside existing individuals at Vistry, so that they can flourish and realise their full potential.”
Contact: Liz Hartland, Vistry Group, 01242 388749; Liz.Hartland@vistrygroup.co.uk
25 June 2021
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