Archaeologists' hard hats on top of lockers (c) MOLA

Tackling discrimination on archaeological sites

Magnus Copps
29.06.2020

Here at MOLA we want our employees to feel they can work safely in an inclusive environment that is free from discrimination. As part of Pride Month 2020, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Lead, Magnus Copps, talks to our Developer Services team about their experiences of addressing discrimination on site and looks at some of the initiatives in archaeology and construction that are coming together to empower people to speak out.

At the beginning of the month I put a call out across the whole of MOLA, asking for people’s reflections and observations of LGBTQI+ experience in our work and in the ways in which we analyse evidence of past lives. One strand that emerged very clearly was the experiences of supervisory people supporting junior teammates in speaking out against discrimination whilst working on site. It’s incredibly important to air these experiences, so that they can inspire others in positions of power to lead and manage these matters and in doing so put a stop to discrimination against any characteristic within our work.

Alison Telfer, a Project Officer in our London Developer Services team, recounted the experience of a field archaeologist speaking up about homophobic language they heard being expressed by a member of a contractor’s construction team: “Sites can be tough places to work, although we have seen a lot of improvement since I first started out. While running a site in London last year, a person in our excavation team came to me to say that a member of the construction team had been saying negative things about gay people very publicly. Reporting this was a really brave thing to do and something I would encourage anyone in a similar position to do; it’s the only way to effect change.

“I took the matter to the contractor’s on-site management team. They addressed things really effectively and the person in question was removed from site immediately. It was great to see such a sincere response, and I hope that this experience encourages others to speak out in a similar way.”

Alison’s experience shows, I think, that the most important thing that anyone can do in the fight against discrimination is speak out. This action needs to be supported through visible campaigns that encourage people to act and also demonstrates the support available to them when they do.

Finally, I wanted to signpost some of the great work in this area being done across archaeology and construction:

  • MOLA’s Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI) working group is in the process of finalising our own commitment to EDI this summer
  • The Prospect Archaeology Branch is a vocal and supportive ally of LGBTQI+ people and other marginalised groups through their Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion strategy
  • The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Equality and Diversity Group is driving culture change in the sector and has brought together a resource library to support others to do this
  • Building Equality brings together over 40 organisations from the UK construction sector to foster equality, diversity and inclusion

There is always more work to do to bring about and maintain equality, so if you have a concern or an idea about this, please don’t hesitate to contact me.