In this industry, you can be anything you like; as long as you’re a Civil Engineer.

Hi! I'm

Tom Wallace

And I'm A

gay

,

Civil Engineer

Living In

The UK

It’s OK, being a gay civil engineer. I’ve worked on projects ranging from tiny railway sidings to massive skyscrapers; and so far the only thing that has limited my career is my technical ability to do so. In an industry where delivery is everything- I have found that people are judged on their competencies, above anything else.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect; engineering has been slow to acknowledge its diversity problems, and conversations about hidden minorities, like being a gay engineer, are still few and far between. This means that support networks are comparatively few– and companies are often ill prepared for the specific problems that gay engineers face- it’s still rare to see a guy taking a career break to adopt a child, and most firms lack frameworks for working abroad in gay-hostile countries.

The industry is getting better- when I first wondered what it would be like, being a gay civil engineer, in the year 2000 all I could find on the subject was a dubious letter berating an earlier attempt at a diversity forum as “promoting unnatural behaviour”. These days
(where gay rights are now roughly equal in law) the few articles there are on the subject are met with predominately positive comments- although typically with an undertone of “personal lives should be left at home”; an attitude which, in my experience, is a fairly damaging one.

At work I’m out to anyone who asks, although there are still a lot of situations where it’s easier not to mention it- and I find myself scanning sentences for gender specific pronouns. While I’ve never had more than a few poorly judged remarks and the odd bit of unchallenged site banter, there is always a degree of uncertainty and the lack of open discussion across the industry means that the feeling of inclusivity needed to make this stressful step easier just isn’t there yet. But it’s getting better.