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Conceptualizing work as a ‘safe space’ for negotiating LGBT identities: navigating careers in the construction sector

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journal contribution
posted on 18.03.2022, 08:59 by Sarah BarnardSarah Barnard, Andrew Dainty
Despite sustained focus in recent years on understanding the experiences of underrepresented groups in construction, there has been a paucity of work that has explored the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. Research has shown homophobia is commonplace in the construction industry and very few gay employees feel able to be open about their sexuality. Using qualitative data garnered from 16 in-depth interviews and a focus group with LGBT workers in the UK construction sector, this article analyses how participants negotiate identities at work and navigate their careers. Drawing on the concept of heteronormativity we consider how organizational contexts frame, constrict and liberate identities in the workplace. Significantly, our findings show that despite enduring heteronormative structures, work was described by participants as a ‘safe space’. By demonstrating how workers assess, move between and create ‘safe spaces’, this article contributes novel insights into the challenging of heteronormativity in heteronormative work contexts.


Bowen Jenkins Legacy Research Fund of the Chartered Institute of Building



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

Work, Employment and Society


SAGE Publications


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Acceptance date









Dr Sarah Barnard. Deposit date: 17 March 2022

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