5-minute briefing: Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Jun 23, 2020

We spoke with our new Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to take a closer look at our EDI strategy.

Tell us about your role and what you do at EngineeringUK?

I joined EngineeringUK 6 months ago as the Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). The EngineeringUK strategy has the ambition of inspiring tomorrow’s engineers and increasing the talent pipeline into engineering and includes the aim of increasing a diverse range of young people choosing academic and vocational pathways into engineering. It is my responsibility to ensure EDI is an organisational priority and that diversity and inclusion is embedded in everything we do.

What will EngineeringUK’s equality, diversity and inclusion strategy focus on over the coming year?

Unfortunately, the world is looking quite different compared to when I first joined EngineeringUK so we will have to be flexible in our approach as we adapt to the changing environment.

We are carefully monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the engineering sector and on the widening attainment gap for less advantaged young people. It is shocking to see the impact of the pandemic on young people’s prospects and we are currently adapting our programmes to fit the changing landscape. We are planning for more digital engagement whilst taking into consideration the digital divide and working to understand what we can do to overcome it. The impact of the pandemic on the diversity of the engineering workforce is also a concern and something that our research and policy teams will be looking at. We will also be reviewing our EDI approach in light of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and increasing discussions about trans rights. We will be taking time to educate ourselves and ensure that we include diverse voices in developing on our work.

We will review our demographic data collection across all our programmes. This will enable us to make the necessary adjustments to our EDI strategy and programmes to improve participation and impact of different underrepresented groups. We will also continue to emphasise the importance of diverse representation in all communications and in the recruitment of our role models and volunteers. As well as reviewing our approach to STEM engagement, we will be collating, producing and sharing evidence-based resources to support other organisations to engage with underrepresented audiences. In the immediate future these resources are likely to cover good practice in digital engagement but over the coming year they will cover a variety of different topics aimed at supporting our corporate members, and other organisations involved in engineering engagement.

We will also be strengthening our organisational inclusivity and will be reviewing all our internal processes and policies. We have already taken steps to improve our recruitment processes including openly advertising our recent Board and Committee vacancies highlighting our diversity and skills gaps, which resulted in a much broader recruitment pool than we have previously had. We are also keen to establish new networks and work in partnership with organisations, especially those with specialist expertise. We welcome any feedback or comment on our plans and suggestions for how we can further improve.

Looking forward, how will EngineeringUK work to achieve some of these outcomes/priorities?

Given the uncertainty of the next year, it is important for us to be flexible and adaptable so we can respond to changing circumstances. It’s also important to recognise where we are not the experts and to consult those that are. Youth and teacher consultation are going to be increasingly important and we will ensure that the groups we consult are diverse and include those that are underrepresented in engineering.

The increased focus on digital engagement is new for everyone. I believe that it’s important for us to be courageous in not only trying new approaches but also in being honest and open about any mistakes we make along the way. We are keen to collaborate with other organisations to share our learnings and learn from others. We’re also increasing the number of bursaries for our programmes. We hope that next year, face-to-face interventions will become a possibility again and want to ensure that money is not a barrier for less-advantaged schools.

To improve our internal processes, we will ensure we are consulting our staff and providing a platform for them to share their views and experiences. Whilst challenging, the pandemic has already put some good working practices in place as we have worked hard to ensure staff are kept up to date through regular CEO updates and virtual staff meetings and opinions about returning to the office have been collected via an anonymous survey. We intend to take some learnings away from this experience and continue with many of the new practices in place.

How does EngineeringUK embed the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in its working culture?

We offer a flexible working day for all staff with core office hours from 10.00 – 16.00. This enables our employees to work earlier or later, depending on what best suits their circumstances, lifestyle and family commitments. Before the pandemic some of our employees worked remotely on a part-time/full-time basis and we have several members of staff who live and work outside London. Over the last few months, we’ve been much more flexible about working hours and will be thoughtful about how we return and when once the pandemic is over.

We have a buddy system in place to support new starters as they settle into their role. This system has recently been extended so all staff who wish to have a buddy, regardless of length of service can have someone on hand to provide any advice or support they may need. Our CEO meets all new starters when they join the organisation and consistently welcomes and promotes feedback, so all employees feel like their voice matters and is heard. She also highlights the importance of EDI across all our work to achieve our mission to increase the number and diversity of tomorrow’s engineers.

We have several committees and groups, including a social committee (who organise lots of fun activities, including a regular quiz, book club and crochet club) and a mental health action group. To support our employees with their health and wellbeing we have two mental health first aiders and we provide free access to a Wellbeing Hub. Our EDI Working group has representatives from across our organisation who help to ensure we’re on track with our EDI work and act as a voice for our employees to raise any questions, concerns or ideas. In the future we aim to provide employee resource groups and hope to form partnerships with other local organisations who may want to join up.

How does EngineeringUK embed these values in its programmes with schools, members, young people and the engineering community?

Our aim is to be inclusive in everything we do and we’re always learning and trying to improve. Through our school programmes we promote different routes into engineering, include diverse role models and provide context that is relevant to young people. We will increase our consultation of teachers, young people and delivery partners as we develop new content and programmes for them. We believe it’s important to be open about our learnings (including any mistakes we make) with our members and the wider engineering community.

What initiatives are you looking forward to implementing and what do you think will be the most challenging in doing so?

I’m really looking forward to the development of our programmes over the next year and the changes we will have to make in response to Covid-19. It will undoubtedly be a huge challenge as there is such uncertainty at the moment but it has the potential to change our approach to engagement long-term and there will be a lot of new learnings along the way.

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