The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Inclusive Cultures in Engineering 2023 research found that more than one-third (35%) of survey respondents had experienced bullying and harassment. That figure rose to 70% for those who identified as both LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian or minority ethnic, and for those who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic and have a disability.
“Underrepresented groups continue to report experiencing a profession where microaggressions are overlooked, and bullying, discrimination and harassment still occur,” a Royal Academy announcement said.
‘Microclimates’ of inclusion struggle to grow because of barriers that still exist, the research found. “Reported ‘masculine’ and ‘macho’ culture remains prevalent in certain parts of the profession, along with siloed working, and fear of calling out harassment and other bad behaviour, or of speaking up more generally.”
Of the 1,657 engineers and employers who took part in the survey, eight-in-10 were keen to promote it as a career. Overall, the report concluded that engineering culture in the UK needs to “accelerate its drive to become more inclusive” if the nation hopes to remain a key player in the global race for engineering skills.
The increasing role of positive action policies and programmes might be having a positive effect on diversity, the report found. Respondents who identified as both LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian or minority ethnic, and those with a disability and who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic, agreed that diversity had improved in engineering (87% and 88% respectively).
“However, when it comes to making engineering more inclusive, the sector needs to work more innovatively and collaboratively to ensure the profession is fit for the future. Although three-quarters of engineers surveyed believe that inclusion in engineering has improved in the past five years, underrepresented groups are less likely to view the culture in this way,” the Royal Academy announcement said.
Inclusive working environments support creativity through collaboration and cooperation, the academy said. They are also accepting of diverse views, and develop innovative solutions to problems.
Louise Parry FCIPD, director of people and organisational development at Energy and Utility Skills, and member of the academy’s Industry Leadership Group, said: “Building and sustaining inclusive cultures is key to the attraction, development, and retention of engineers in the profession, and this requires clear investment in, and leadership of, inclusion.
“It is great that three-quarters of the engineers we spoke to feel that the culture of engineering has improved in the past five years. However, it is clear we have a long way to go. It is unacceptable that there is anyone working in our profession who feels unable to bring their authentic self to work. People need to be able to fully bring to bear their individual skills and perspectives to help tackle our many engineering challenges.
“Employers, professional institutes, and the academy itself all have a key role to play in addressing this. The recommendations the report calls for are essential if we are to make engineering a truly inclusive profession to work in, and for UK engineering to continue to be a key player in the global race for engineering skills.”
The report’s recommendations for cultivating a more inclusive profession are grouped under four themes: improving the culture of inclusion; nurturing a sense of belonging; tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination; and improving retention and success.
Among the recommendations is a call for the profession to emphasise the relationship between inclusive cultures and safety. Engineering companies, institutions and other bodies should also be more transparent about diversity data across their organisation, including at leadership and governance levels, the report found, and should do more to showcase their progress towards an inclusive culture.
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