CHRISTINA RILEY IS A SENIOR PLANNER AT QUINN LONDON AND DIRECTOR AT LGBT CONSTRUCT & CO FOUNDER OF THE BUILDING EQUALITY NETWORK AND CONSTRUCT-ABILITY.
What do these roles involve?
My day job is a Senior Planner in the construction industry. My role builds on my experience as a setting out engineer. Today I plan how to construct buildings up to around £100m in value.
My volunteering work around LGBTQ+ inclusion & workplace diversity and equity happens in my spare time. I do public speaking on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the construction sector and beyond, and have launched both company networks and industry networks. The Building Equality Network was founded in 2015 and now has over 60 corporate and organisational members I also founded iconic Rainbow Digger for the industry that attends Industry exhibitions and Prides up and down the country driving visible inclusion. Construct-Ability is a disability and non-visible disabilities network I co-founded in 2020. I also sit on the Construction Industry Council Diversity Committee and am vice-chair of the Chartered Institute of Building Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Panel.
You transitioned to female while working in the construction and engineering industry and say that you had “no choice”. Why “no choice”?
I had no choice because inside I was dying. I suffered from chronic anxiety hiding my gender identity for ten years, and this manifested in daily chronic panic attacks. The only choice I did have was to seek help, or let my anxiety take me to a dark place. In coming out in 2014, I went on to cure my disabling panic disorder. I haven’t had an attack now for over eight years. My colleagues were so supportive. It was the best decision I made in my life.
What advice would you give to any individual who is questioning their gender identity?
My advice is to reach out to a trusted friend in confidence for that emotional support. But then to explore your identity through contacting other networks either socially or in the business world. Speaking to others who have lived the experience will help you find direction and clarity in your own thoughts.
What steps can an employer take to create a genuinely inclusive and diverse work place?
An employer can take a number of steps:
1 Employ an EDI manager or consultant
2 Launch employee resource groups (ERG) for the diversity strands, and have support from the CEO and board
3 Ensure the ERGs have active board sponsors
4 Make sure EDI is on the board room agenda, as well as at other levels across the company
5 Add EDI as an objective on the Performance and Development Reviews
6 Collect EDI data so you know where you are, and where you are going
7 Sign up to Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme
8 Get advice on writing a Transition at Work Policy
In the past few years we’ve seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights. What more needs to be done?
The transgender community is under constant attack at the moment, from the media and UK government to a point that the Safe To Be Me Conference was cancelled following a protest around conversion therapy. We need to continue the protest to ensure the conversion therapy ban includes trans people. We also need to ensure health care is available to trans people including children.
We also need to look outward and how we can support LGBTQI+ people in countries where they are in danger.
What is a typical day in the life of Christina Riley?
I am a huge Star Wars fan, to a point that my home is a Star Wars Media Museum. My day is full on from when I wake up. I do my day job, and then I continue my diversity activism into the evening. I have already got EDI events booked up for six months
what has been your proudest achievement?
Firstly, keeping contact with my children, I nearly lost them.
Secondly, winning the British LGBT Award Corporate Rising Star in 2017. I was awarded role model of the year in my industry at UK Construction Week.
I was also recognised in the USA by Engineering News Record.
Lastly, I founded my home Pride in Bicester, Oxfordshire.