Gerri Harris, DE&I Committee Vice-Chair and Gilbane Chicago Area Director Economic Inclusion & Community Affair, visited with Claire Drexler, Gilbane Project Engineer & New England Pride ERG Chair, about what Pride Month means to her and how being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has impacted her career in the construction industry.
Claire Drexler: I am a very out and proud lesbian working as a construction project engineer.
How does being a lesbian affect your experience in the construction industry?
Well, you know how it is more typical for men to be attracted to women? Women in the construction business, predominantly filled with men, find it easy to think or feel like they're being hit on when guys approach them. Being a lesbian, sometimes I'm lumped into that category, with women mistaking my kindness and attempts at fostering teamwork for flirtatious gestures. Trying to prove that I'm not hitting on anyone when I give a friendly “heyyyy!” has been a struggle. I find it takes extra time to develop friendships but [I] eventually get there after coworkers get to know me a bit better.
Do you have a recommendation for other members of the LGBTQ+ community in the construction industry?
Don't be afraid to be yourself. The world is a tough place to be right now, and we're fighting daily for our right to be here and be ourselves. If your company isn't accepting, do your best to help make it more accepting, or find somewhere else. Life is too short not to enjoy, so be you and be happy with yourself.
What does Gilbane do to be LGBTQ+ friendly?
Gilbane has policies and employee resource groups (ERGs) to protect and welcome anyone who is part of or an ally to the community. Our leadership is always trying to embrace and expand on our company's diversity to foster creativity, teamwork, and a sense of belonging.
Claire, thank you for sharing. I stand in allyship and invite others in the construction industry to join us in recognizing and celebrating June as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) Pride Month. Learning can start with a conversation or simply by starting with “heyyyy!”