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Editor's comment: We must open our minds

The news section in the October 2017 issue has a bit of a theme: diversity and inclusion. It is one that you will also see explored further elsewhere in this opinion section of the website.

Claire Smith

Claire Smith is editor of GE

With my return to work after maternity leave, these issues are on my mind, and it appears I am not alone. As well as the news and opinions published here, I have also heard first hand from others in the industry that are trying to ensure engineering is open to everyone.

Tideway, for example, is looking at how is advertises and describes roles to ensure its candidate pool fits the recruitment profiles it has set itself. Tideway chief executive Andy Mitchel has said that a more diverse workforce is a more productive one and that if we are to deliver infrastructure that is of most use to society, we are more likely to achieve that with a team that is representative of that society.

Normally I wouldn’t add personal comment to these discussions but I have been struck by a repeated reaction to my return and it leaves me wondering whether we have a lot further to go in dealing with perceptions in order to achieve real inclusivity.

Fortunately most people seem pleased that I am back at work, but many have been shocked that I am back full time and my husband has put his career on a back burner to be our son’s main carer. Surely this is equality in action and I’ve achieved something career women have been striving for? But, no, the questions that follow have been “but what if he doesn’t like it?”, “does he mind?” or “will he cope?”. The answers are: he loves it, no and yes, most definitely!

I’m sure the questions were well intended but would anyone ask those questions of a man whose partner became a stay at home mum? I doubt it.

In order for engineering to be truly inclusive, we need to ensure we are not distorting the outcome with our own preconceptions and be fully open to a different way of working. This is not limited

to who does the work but also needs to cover how the work is procured, designed and delivered too.

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