Written by Mel Sutcliffe
On Wed 3rd March I attended a virtual ‘Engineering Change’ webinar, hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This purpose of this event was to explore diversity issues and their implications for engineering and the wider world and opened with a welcome from Dr Hayaatun Sillem, the CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
This was followed by a Panel discussion titled ‘Leading Change’. The topics discussed during this session included how to achieving diversity and inclusivity through leadership, the importance of recognizing unconscious bias and how best to address it, and how to work towards a more diverse workforce. It was emphasised that diversity and inclusivity relates not just to gender, but also to sexuality, race, disability, age etc. One of the more vocal panelists was Neil Smith, who is the Inclusive Design Lead at HS2 Ltd.
The delegates then had a choice of three sessions to attend. I opted for ‘Systems change – How do we meet the needs of a diverse world?’ which focused on how to address some of the biggest barriers to diversity, and highlighted some of the unexpected, and occasionally undesirable, consequences of well-intentioned changes.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion chaired by Loraine Martins, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Network Rail. The theme of the discussion was the importance of allies/acts of solidarity to progress diversity. A representative from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) described how important men are as allies in championing women engineers in the workplace. Here at HICSE there has long been a culture that it’s how well you do the job that matters, irrespective of gender, race, age etc. I’ve been fortunate that in the 20+ years I’ve been an engineer in various companies and sectors, my male colleagues have typically been supportive and non-judgemental. However, it’s still important to be aware that it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of jumping to conclusions, for example, in a hospital assuming that the male is the doctor and the female the nurse. A successful business cannot afford to miss out on the talent that lazy prejudice can overlook.
More information about diversity and inclusion can be found here: https://www.raeng.org.uk/diversity-in-engineering
Note: The event was held using Zoom, and as each person spoke, their words were displayed on screen as subtitles. The technology converting speech to text struggled with ‘Covid 19’ – and repeatedly displayed it as ‘Kevin 19’. This must have been very confusing for delegates with impaired hearing who were relying on the subtitles!