University of Hull PhD researcher, Stefi McMaster, talks about the imperative to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in engineering and a roadmap for positive change in the sector.
As a PhD researcher, I have developed an interest in dismantling complex organisational issues. The imperative to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in engineering is an excellent example of this. At first, the required action seems straightforward; recruit more individuals who are different from the male, white able-bodied engineering population (i.e. target more women, BAME and disabled individuals). However, when I scratched the surface of research into EDI, I realised that there were many issues with this simplistic approach.
One is that a focus on employee statistics only considers one aspect of EDI – diversity – overlooking the less tangible, but equally important concepts of equality and inclusion, meaning that any new-found diversity increase is unlikely to stick.
Another is that the lack of diverse representation in engineering is an issue that stems right from the beginning of early education with many educational, societal and psychological factors at play.
In addition, many attempts to improve EDI end up encouraging the introduction of other homogenous groups into the industry (eg privately educated white women) and fail to take the complex notion of intersectionality into account.
With this report, I considered each of these issues and included the voices of women within the industry who have personal experience of being a minority within their field and striving to improve the current situation. I learned that there are many excellent individuals and organisations that are striving for change but that there is a lack of cohesion between these activities. In the report, I have suggested actions to improve this but this is just the start and effort will be needed from the whole sector to put these suggestions into action.