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Call for diversity in engineering sector

THE FUTURE: Will our children work in a more diverse sector?

THE ROYAL Academy of Engineering has a called for a profession-wide culture change to help it become more diverse.

The initiative follows the publication of a unique survey of workplace cultures, which shows that diversity and inclusion benefits all engineers, but there are some discrepancies between experiences of inclusivity at work.

According to the survey – the first to measure workplace culture in engineering – UK engineers are described by their own peers as good at problem solving, safety-conscious, proud, loyal, team-oriented and flexible.

However, many engineers describe their culture as friendly but impersonal, with a strong attachment to tradition and offering too little support in relation to career development.
More than 7,000 UK engineers responded to the survey.

Results published last week in a report called Creating Cultures Where All Engineers Thrive shows that some 77 per cent of those surveyed said they like their job ‘most or all of the time’, and 82 per cent would recommend engineering as a great career choice to family and friends. Only three per cent of respondents are planning to leave the profession permanently (for reasons other than retirement) in the next 12 months.

Those who took part saw the benefits of working in an inclusive profession, with 80 per cent of those surveyed saying that feeling included at work increased their motivation and 68 per cent saying it increased their overall performance. But the survey found that gender and ethnicity make a significant difference to how engineers perceive the culture of their profession.

Being in a minority in engineering gives women and black and minority ethnic (BAME) engineers a consistently different perspective on its culture. Male engineers (82 per cent) were significantly more likely than their female colleagues (43 per cent) to say their gender is irrelevant to how they are perceived at work.

ASSUMPTIONS

BAME (85 per cent) engineers were more likely than their white (58 per cent) colleagues to report that assumptions are made about them based on their ethnicity or nationality. BAME (72 per cent) and female (72 per cent) engineers are also less likely to speak up on inappropriate behaviour, than their white (83 per cent) and male (84 per cent) colleagues.

The report identifies seven indicators of inclusion: openness, respect, relationships, career development support, flexibility, leadership and diversity. The report says that creating a more inclusive culture will require targeted interventions for women and BAME engineers, and the one in five white male engineers who also reported feeling less included.

The survey provides a baseline against which to measure future progress. The research also gathered information on the extent of inclusion among lesbian, gay bisexual and disabled engineers, as well as from engineers with different religions and belief or none. Results from this will be published later this year.

In the foreword to the report, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said:

“Equality of opportunity is a critical part of a modern industrial strategy, and the progress this report calls for is essential if we are to maximise the potential of the UK’s engineering sector.”

Loraine Martins MBE FRSA, director of diversity and inclusion at Network Rail, a member of the steering group overseeing the survey, said:

“With only nine per cent of UK engineers being women and only six per cent coming from a BAME background, we clearly need to do more to improve diversity in the engineering profession.

“This will require a significant culture change, if our vision of an inclusive profession that is welcoming, respectful and supports career development for everyone, is to be realised.”

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