EDI policies risk perception as ‘box-ticking’ exercises, report finds

Efforts to implement equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives are seen by some professionals as ‘box-ticking’ exercises that do not lead to meaningful outcomes, a new report has found.


Undertaken by The Young Foundation on behalf of 12 professional membership and regulatory bodies including the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the report, Beyond Buzzwords, incorporates insights from over 7,000 professionals.

It found that 73 per cent of respondents had experienced barriers to career progression or some form of 'discriminatory or exclusionary’ behaviour in their workplace since the start of 2019. Negative experiences were more pronounced among those with multiple marginalised characteristics. 

In a statement, Dr Laura Norton, head of EDI at the IET, said: “The report findings are concerning and it’s no secret that the engineering profession faces barriers when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion. Organisations can’t become the blueprint for EDI overnight, but there is huge value in leading by example and creating robust policies and processes, as well as implementing small but meaningful actions.

“In order to design and engineer inclusively and ensure we serve all of society, we need to involve many different people with different backgrounds and experiences. The engineering profession needs to be creating more inclusive learning environments and harnessing everyone’s unique capacity for knowledge, creativity, and innovation. That’s how we engineer a better world – and create a talent pipeline that ensures the future of engineering is sustainable.”


Key concerns emerging from the research include widespread scepticism that EDI goals are being translated into meaningful actions, with support for EDI efforts waning as a result. It also found that access and entry routes into many professions remain challenging for people from minority backgrounds, with systemic barriers related to affordability of qualifications, accessibility issues, and lack of role models.

Many professionals also feel excluded from informal networks and opportunities to develop. 53 per cent have considered leaving their employer or profession due to EDI concerns, related to feeling undervalued or having limited scope to progress.

More positively, the research found that tailored solutions can have significant impacts, such as targeted development programmes, normalising flexible working, creating accessible learning resources, and removing biases in hiring.

The full report can be found here.

Does your company have an EDI policy in place? If so, do you think it is making a positive impact, or is it just ‘box-ticking’? Let us know in the Comments section. All comments are moderated. Click here to read The Engineer’s Comment Guidelines.