Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke has spoken out against homophobia in the engineering profession – as he holds an event on the issue.
The Conservative MP is chairing a report in Parliament today supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, to discuss the launch of a report on LGBT issues in the industry.
The report co-complied by Mr Shelbrooke is titled ‘Engineering Action: tackling homophobia in engineering’ – and highlights that half of LGBT engineers choose not to come out to colleagues at work because they fear the impact of homophobia on their careers.
In a statement, the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, who worked as a mechanical engineer before becoming an MP, said he was “shocked” by the findings.
He said: “It came as a genuine surprise to me to read in an engineering journal that in this day and age such a high level of homophobia can exist in a professional, white collar sector.
“It is my ambition that over the coming years someone’s sexuality will not be stigmatised in the workplace, be it in the office or on site, and people will be able to speak freely about their family lives without fear of ridicule and bigotry.
“This is especially important when you consider the need to recruit almost a million engineers over the next decade if Britain is to remain a world leader.”
Mr Shelbrooke previously voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in 2013 – but maintained at the time he was doing so because of religious concerns, and was not motivated by homophobia.
The MP said at the time: “What I find upsetting about this entire conversation is that if you vote against this you’re homophobic. I am not homophobic.
“I certainly believe that people should be able to have equal partnerships. This is a religious discussion for me and one which personally I feel has gone totally in the wrong direction.”
Dr Mark McBride-Wright, Chair of InterEngineering, will speak at the event.
He said: “Progress and acceptance within the engineering workplace for those in the LGBT community is hindered by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language.
“For example, using ‘gay’ as an expression denoting something negative – I have experienced this. It may be casual banter for some, but for me it resonates with childhood bullying and must be challenged and stopped.”
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt said: “Although we are starting to see some positive changes, engineering is still lagging behind other sectors when it comes to LGBT inclusion.
“The recent InterEngineering report demonstrates how much work still needs to be done. As an organisation we know that people perform better when they can be themselves.
“Stonewall has been working with 28 engineering employers through our Diversity Champions programme to help equip staff and senior management with the tools needed to create inclusive working environments for all LGBT employees.”