The Royal Academy of Engineering has called for profession-wide culture change and regular benchmarking of progress in order to create a truly inclusive culture within the UK engineering profession. The initiative follows the publication of a unique survey of workplace cultures which shows that inclusion benefits all engineers, but there are some discrepancies between experiences of inclusiveness 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.
Over 7,000 UK engineers responded to the survey. Results published today in a report called Creating cultures where all engineers thrive show that some 77% of those surveyed said they like their job ‘most or all of the time’, and 82% would recommend engineering as a great career choice to family and friends. Only 3% 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% of those surveyed saying that feeling included at work increased their motivation and 68% saying it increased their overall performance.
Read the report: Creating cultures where all engineers thrive (4.45 MB)
However, 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 (82%) engineers were significantly more likely than their female (43%) colleagues to say their gender is irrelevant to how they are perceived at work. BAME (85%) engineers were more likely than their white (58%) colleagues to report that assumptions are made about them based on their ethnicity or nationality.
BAME (72%) and female engineers (80%) also feel less able to be open about their lives outside work than white (85%) and male (85%) engineers. BAME (72%) and female (72%) engineers are also less likely to speak up on inappropriate behaviour, than their white (83%) and male (84%) colleagues.
Creating cultures where all engineers thrive identifies seven indicators of inclusion: openness, respect, relationships, career development support, flexibility, leadership and diversity. Creating a more inclusive culture will require targeted interventions for women and BAME engineers, and the 1 in 5 white male engineers who also reported feeling less included. It will mean taking action across each of these indicators, and measuring and monitoring progress towards a more inclusive future for all. The survey provides a- baseline against which to measure future progress.
The research also gathered information on the extent of inclusion amongst 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, says: “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 to drive productivity and continue to secure our leading position in the global marketplace.”
Loraine Martins MBE FRSA, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Network Rail, a member of the steering group overseeing the survey, says: “With only 9% of UK engineers being women and only 6% coming from a black, Asian or minority ethnic 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.”
Allan Cook CBE FREng, Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “We can take many positives from this extensive survey. UK engineers are highly focused on delivering the best solutions to challenges which exist in their demanding jobs and this problem-solving expertise can be applied to improving diversity and inclusion. Engineers recognise the benefits of working in an inclusive environment and acknowledge that we need to work harder to drive change. The Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion programme has been set up do exactly this task.”