Diversity in Engineering

The issue of diversity is being discussed across the Engineering sector. To combat historical prejudices Google have even proposed new emoji’s which show women in various professions, including Business, Science and Technology. Conversations on the balance of race, gender, sexuality and age of employees within engineering and technology industries lead to a common outcome; engineering and technology should be inclusive industries where people are employed for their skills, irrespective of background.

Two interesting podcasts were published last week on the subject: #Build2Perform Episode 2 from CIBSE in the UK and The Intern Episode 7 from New York. #Build2Perform included an interview with one of the founders of WiBSE, Women in Building Services Engineering, a network for supporting female CIBSE members. And The Intern explored the process of making a hire whilst being aware of the difference in diversity between the general population and the Tech Industry.

Both podcasts are thought provoking and worth a listen. Particularly interesting was the issue of offering a job to a candidate based on an inherent bias in the interviewer. How much do ‘built in’ stereotypes prejudge employers decisions when looking to fill positions? In the UK the Equality Act 2010 protects certain characteristics such as gender, nationality and age and as a consequence the advice is to omit these details from your CV when job hunting.

I have been aware of the statistics surrounding the gender imbalance in Building Services, which is now 12% female and 88% male, and on occasion I have observed this first hand. The intake of students when I studied Building Services Engineering was very far from a 50/50 split between men and women.

Solving issues of diversity is complicated and there is no quick fix. In the CIBSE Young Engineers Network (YEN) we promote Engineering to school pupils of all backgrounds. We encourage our members to volunteer as STEM ambassadors to best achieve this aim. Our volunteers present their own stories and become positive role models for school pupils and college students.

Of the 16 regions across the CIBSE YEN network 30% of the Chair and Vice-Chair positions on the organising committees are held by women. On twitter 32% and 36% of @CIBSEYEN’s and @CIBSEYENLondon’s followers are female respectively. 

My hope is that as the next generation of school pupils choose their career in the engineering profession that the new intake matches the diverse cross-section of society.