We back a major industry diversity initiative

Ruskin Air Management has stepped up its support for an industry-wide initiative aimed at improving the diversity and equality of the construction and real estate workforce in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Ruskin has now sponsored two special events hosted by RIBA on behalf of the Freehold networking forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) professionals working in the built environment.

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Freehold, which was launched in 2011, includes building surveyors, valuation surveyors, agency surveyors, asset managers, architects, developers, investors and property lawyers from both the public and private sector. It collaborates with the international law firm Taylor Wessing and leading building and property consultants Tuffin Ferraby Taylor. Freehold also has the backing and support of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, Stonewall, and aims to address the equality gap for the LGBT community. It says that people perform better when "they are encouraged to be themselves and Freehold is there to provide support so that members of the group can feel empowered to do just that".

Ruskin has now sponsored two Freehold events held at RIBA's headquarters in London that bring the LGBT community together to network with other real estate professionals and to share concerns and issues as well as to explore business opportunities in an informal environment. At the most recent, which was attended by more than 150 network members, Ruskin's Josh Emerson told the group that improving diversity and inclusivity was vital for the industry's future prosperity.

"There is a significant skills gap growing across the industry in all vocations and I think the industry is waking up to the fact that we are missing out on a whole pool of talent in the LGBT community as well as from other minority groups."

He added that diversity was a major challenge for the construction sector.

"It is important for everyone in the industry to remember the buildings and bridges we build and the services we provide do not discriminate, but impact everyone in our society equally," added Mr Emerson.

Freehold's Brian Bickell added that a greater sense of "inclusion" was vital to make workplaces function better and RIBA's acting chief executive Alan Vallance told the meeting that the LGBT community should experience "full equality in the workplace" and that the Institute had "zero tolerance for discrimination in any form".

"The remit of this organisation is to champion better buildings," said Mr Vallance. "Implementing that requires our profession to be a diverse one."