Nov 15, 2021
Dr Rashada Harry sits on the EngineeringUK Board and is the co-founder of Your Future, Your Ambition (YFYA), a social enterprise that aims to inspire, educate and encourage young people across a range of diverse backgrounds into pursuing careers in STE(A)M. Having started in 2012, it is now an international effort helping thousands of individuals find a pathway into industry.
In an interview with Harvey Nash Group, ‘How can we turn conversation into action, and create inclusive organisations?’, Rashada discussed the importance of representation and inclusion at board level, and how organisations can change this.
Moving the needle forward
There is still so much for organisations to learn about improving their equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programmes, and not enough is being done in the STE(A)M industry for the representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
Rashada is trying to move the needle forward and make sure our young people live in a future which is not closed off to opportunity, but one which embraces our differences. Like many of us, she hopes for a brighter, more inclusive future for the next generation but this cannot be achieved if organisations do not make a change.
In the interview, Rashada said: “We all understand the importance of diversity, but diversity is nothing without inclusion... It is vitally important that an organisation’s board represents the organisation and its customers, but also the customers’ customers.
“I currently sit on the board at EngineeringUK, and it is really refreshing to see the diversity of mix of people across lots of different backgrounds, but also with age, in gender and disability.. If everyone looks the same and has the same experiences, then you’re going to come up with the same types of solutions.
“It’s all about providing (young people) with access to opportunities to make sure they are aware of the opportunities in organisations like Harvey Nash, like Amazon, like Deloitte, like National Grid, but also making sure they understand that these organisations want their talent and are looking for their perspective to be shared.”
It is difficult to encourage young people to pursue careers in STE(A)M when the organisations representing the sector are not being inclusive, and this is why Rashada is calling for a shift in the dial.
“Learn fast, fail fast, fail forward”
Although failing forward may sound nonsensical, to Rashada it is very important in making progress. In the interview, she places an emphasis on celebrating failures and overcoming them. To make progress we must face failure and go on an educational journey, and this is something everyone should think about, especially organisations who want to work in the best way forward. Rashada believes in failure because “it’s easy to be discouraged but its important to fail fast, fail forward and learn along the way”.
Commenting on the topic, Dr Hilary Leevers, CEO of EngineeringUK, said:
“If we are going to create a secure future for our children then we need to start with the basics: equality, diversity and inclusion. The STE(A)M sector needs to work harder to drive change, we need a true breadth of diversity of thought and experience. Not only do we need more women in the engineering workforce, but also better representation of people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups as well as those from different socio-economic backgrounds and people with disabilities. All young people are invited to pursue a career in STE(A)M.
“I am proud to be a part of EngineeringUK because we strive to reflect our core values across the organisation, including at board level: we are insightful, courageous, passionate and inclusive. There is always room for improvement and we continue to challenge ourselves. Dr Rashada Harry is an asset to EngineeringUK’s Board, and I hope others will follow her lead in proactively working to create a more diverse and inclusive future.”
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