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Academy calls for a culture change to improve inclusion

Engineers must make a profession-wide culture change and carry out regular benchmarking to create a truly inclusive industry, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The call follows publication of a survey of workplace culture – Creating cultures - which shows that inclusion benefits all engineers, but there are some discrepancies between experiences of inclusiveness at work.

The academy has said that the survey, which canvassed the views of over 7,000 UK engineers, is the first to measure workplace culture in engineering.

Respondents described 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.

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.

Network Rail director of diversity and inclusion Loraine Martins, who was a member of the steering group overseeing the survey, said: “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.”

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