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Engineering culture in the UK is not inclusive enough, report says

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Engineering culture in the UK needs to accelerate its drive to become more inclusive, according to a new report from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Engineering firms should work to become more inclusive if they want to attract the right talent, the organisation's report states. 

The research commissioned by the Academy aimed to improve understanding of how engineers perceive the current culture of the engineering profession and whether it is attracting, developing and retaining the number and diversity of engineers needed in the UK.

The majority of the 1,657 engineers surveyed stated that they feel pride in their profession, with eight in ten (81 per cent) being keen to promote it as a career.

Moreover, out of those that identified as both LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian or minority ethnic, and those with a disability and who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic, the majority agreed that diversity had improved in engineering (87 per cent and 88 per cent respectively).

However, the Academy stressed that the sector still has work to do when it comes to making engineering more inclusive and 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 research showed. 

"While there are ‘microclimates’ of inclusion, their crucial growth is impeded because of barriers to inclusion that persist," the Academy said. "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."

Moreover, the survey showed that underrepresented groups stated that often microaggressions are overlooked and that bullying, discrimination and harassment still occur in engineering professions.

Overall, one in three engineers (35 per cent) who responded to the survey had experienced bullying and harassment. However, when exploring intersectionality within the data, this figure went up to 70 per cent for those who identified as both LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian or minority ethnic, and also for those who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic and have a disability.

“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," said Louise Parry, director of people and organisational development at Energy and Utility Skills and chair of the Inclusive Cultures Advisory Group. 

"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."

The report also included the Academy's recommendations for cultivating a more inclusive profession, grouped under four themes: improving the culture of inclusion; nurturing a sense of belonging; tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination, and improving retention and success. 

Moreover, among the report’s recommendations is a call for the profession to emphasise the relationship between inclusive cultures and safety.

The Academy encouraged engineering companies, institutions and other bodies to be more transparent about diversity data across their organisation, including at leadership and governance levels, and to do more to showcase their progress towards an inclusive culture.

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