Report calls on engineering sector to work harder on developing culture of inclusivity

Despite some improvements in recent years, industry must do more to build a culture that attracts and retains engineers from underrepresented groups, claims a new Royal Academy of Engineering report.

As the engineering skills gap continues to impact businesses across industry, it’s never been more important for engineering organisations to attract, develop and retain a diversity of engineers from all areas of society.

And yet, whilst three quarter of engineers believe that industry’s culture and inclusivity has improved in the past 5 years under-represented groups continue to experience a profession where microaggressions are overlooked and bullying, discrimination and harassment are still tolerated. These are the key findings of a new report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Based on responses from 1657 engineers and employers, The report, Inclusive Cultures in Engineering 2023, explores the relationship between culture, inclusion and diversity and, in particular, intersectional data from underrepresented groups (i.e.. data that takes account of the fact that human experience is jointly shaped by multiple social positions, such as race, gender, sexuality.)

The research highlights different facets of what an inclusive culture across the engineering profession looks like along with the values and behaviours that can either enable or inhibit the development of an inclusive culture.

While the report identifies ‘microclimates’ of inclusion, it argues that their growth is impeded because of barriers to inclusion that persist. 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.

Underrepresented groups continue to report experiencing a profession where microaggressions are overlooked, and bullying, discrimination and harassment still occur. Overall, one in three engineers (35 %) who took part in the research had experienced bullying and harassment. However, when exploring intersectionality within the data this figure went up to 70% 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.

Commenting on the findings Louise Parry FCIPD, Director of People and Organisational Development at Energy and Utility Skills and Chair of the Inclusive Cultures Advisory Group, said: “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."

The report’s recommendations for cultivating a more inclusive profession are grouped under four themes: improving the culture of inclusion; nurturing a sense of belonging; tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination; and improving retention and success. According the Academy the data gathered will be analysed further over the following months to uncover localised inclusion challenges, and develop more detailed recommendations, advice and support for industry.