A look back on EqualEngineers during 2021

Here I share my reflections as I look back on EqualEngineers during 2021. From day one, 2021 has been dominated by Covid-19 and we’ve all adapted to what is regularly described as a ‘new normal’.

For EqualEngineers this has meant a mix between both online and in-person events plus quite a few meetings in front of the computer. I’m sure has been the same for many of you reading this – though our work to continue promoting diversity and inclusion across the engineering sector has not wavered!

It’s certainly been a strange and at times disorientating year. We have also been regularly reminded about how inter-connected the world is and how important it is to recognise the importance and attributes of everyone. That is a meaningful agenda and one which I am proud to say we are contributing to helping.

Talking of how our world is more connected than ever and how something happening to someone else has a knock-on effect in your day-to-day life. You only need to look at the ongoing effects of the pandemic or when a container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal for a week to realise that. It feels like things have never been clearer about the need for people to work together across borders and sectors.

That is where EqualEngineers is really trying to make an impact. Appeal to every member of the huge engineering and technology sector to support each other in order to create a better working environment for all and in turn, improve our society for the future.

We have done this in a number of ways this year, firstly providing science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) resources for parents in January to get the next generation interested in the industry.

Mentoring

By February it was time to launch our groundbreaking Pilot Mentoring Programme and EqualEngineers Academy. I had run careers events for opportunity-seekers every six months for the past three and a half years. Be they in-person, or virtual, a lot of effort goes into a few hours of contact time between prospective applicants and exhibiting organisations. It got me thinking that there must be some added value EqualEngineers can offer when bridging the connection between our stakeholder groups. I thought mentoring could be a solution, but I put the idea aside.

In 2020, we recruited our 22 Student Ambassadors representing 14 UK universities. It became clear to me through working with them that similar cultural barriers are being experienced at universities as are experienced in the workplace. We were in the middle of a roll-out of our Engineering a Winning Workforce: Engaging the Majority training to the UK nuclear sector, and comments were coming up which were similar to those identified by our Student Ambassadors.

Mentors and mentees completed a registration form, from which we could do our matching. We created an onboarding module delivered through our EqualEngineers Online Academy where we auto-enrolled participants to take this whilst we were doing the matching and we provided a comprehensive set of resources to support our participants on their mentoring journey from January to May 2021.

It was my hope that some of the barriers which we commonly see crop up will start to become eradicated through education and this is just the start, with connections being made through our programme also providing participants with networks for the future.

As well as our student programme, we started working on a cross-sector mentoring offering too, connecting up engineers across industry, academia and government.

Equality in Engineering Conference

In April, we hosted our annual Equality in Engineering conference – virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. The engaging event brought together engineers in industry and academia, with current students and graduates, to discuss the equality and diversity challenges being faced in the engineering and technology industry.

People attended our plenary session to hear from ED&I leaders and how they are making a difference to the inclusive culture of engineering while they also took part in our workshops focussing on the changes that need to be made to improve race and ethnicity inclusivity, as well as the steps being taken to better understand the mental health challenges of engineers.

We’ll be running this conference next year, hopefully in-person, and it’s set to be a really stellar event with parliamentary representation – you can get involved by emailing me here.

Now, diversity and inclusion issues within the engineering and technology sector are not just being faced by those working in the industry, but are prominent among engineering students who are part of underrepresented groups with protected characteristics. 

Students from diverse backgrounds face additional challenges in securing graduate employment in engineering. Statistics around student diversity in engineering paint a stark picture about the employment opportunities available to underrepresented groups.

To make a significant impact on the diversity of the engineering workforce, better support needs to be made available to engineering students in securing employment over a longer period during their studies.

Pathways Programme

In June, EqualEngineers launched an exciting new solution, the EqualEngineers Pathways Programme. The purpose of this programme is to provide students with a variety of supportive elements to ensure greater employability outcomes after graduation, and to improve their sense of inclusion and belonging within the engineering and technology industry.

The Pathways Programme is running right now alongside the academic year, providing students access to things like in-person careers insights and employability workshop sessions, virtual training on work readiness and interpersonal skills development. We have also run a mentoring programme to pair-up students with engineers from industry, to improve their understanding of employment and provide support to their concerns and opportunities for work experience, placement, internship and graduate roles. Over 620 students applied for the 120 spots available in our first cohort.

For more information, click here to visit our Pathways Programme webpage.

Organisations taking part in the programme are looking to support the necessity to improve the employability opportunities of students from diverse backgrounds, and are striving to impact their own organisation’s inclusive culture. I was very proud that the EqualEngineers Pathways Programme launched with initial partner organisations comprising McLaren Racing, Network Rail, Rolls-Royce and First Bus.

Engineering Talent Awards 2021

In September, we held a very special Engineering Talent Awards evening at the Leonardo Royal Hotel, London Bridge, recognising good practice and achievements from both individuals and organisations. Craig Orrock from Heriot-Watt University was honoured with the Overall Excellence in Engineering Award 2021 for his work in the UK Students for the Exploration & Development of Space (UKSEDS) national student space society, and for his leadership in improving accessibility for the hearing impaired and deaf people. 

There were 12 category winners overall from companies such as BAE Systems, Google and Heathrow, chosen from 77 nominations from a wide array of engineering organisations, industries and geographical locations. Check out the highlight video on the ETA homepage.

I’m pleased to say here that nominations and entries into the Engineering Talent Awards 2022 are now open and you can find out more about that here.

Careers Fairs

By October, it was time for EqualEngineers to bring a set of powerhouse global companies together to promote engineering job opportunities across four major UK cities.

We teamed up McLaren Racing, Rolls-Royce, Network Rail, Dyson, Avanti West Coast with each business showcasing what they were all about at our careers fairs in London (November 3), Manchester (October 15), Birmingham (October 20), Bristol (October 6) and online (October 22, November 1 and 2).

At each event, we gave attendees the opportunity to learn about what it is like to work for world-renowned business while finding out what to expect from pursuing a career in the industry, during what were the first in-person EqualEngineers careers fair since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Now, at EqualEngineers we believe that it is time for a focussed effort on diverse talent in engineering and technology and a major step in the right direction is to bring diverse candidates under one roof – which we did through our careers fairs. Indeed, those attending could find out about apprenticeships, placements, internships, graduate and returnship opportunities from engineering and technology employers.

We also organised training providers and educational establishments to talk to prospective employees at each fair about how they can support people alongside their employers throughout any career in the industry. 

The events were all free to join and we will be running these again next year, so watch this space! In the meantime you can also check out the job opportunities currently available via EqualEngineers here.

Masculinity in Engineering Research Survey

October was an incredibly busy month for us as finally, and perhaps most importantly, we re-launched our established Masculinity in Engineering research theme. This research has led to a new way of delivering more impactful positive interventions on organisational culture change across the industry.

This is a first-of-its-kind research for the sector and is building on findings from its landmark report two years ago which uncovered that male construction workers are almost four times more likely to take their own life than the average of those working in any other industry or profession.

The situation is bleak, particularly among the engineering and technology industry with men comprising more than 89% of the workforce and an overwhelming feeling among this sector that men should behave in a certain way against a backdrop of more than one in five in this line of work reporting that they had lost a colleague to suicide.

There is also a significant minority of engineers, more than one in 10, who believe men should view women as property or objects; or express themselves through aggression (verbal, physical or sexual).

We uncovered these shocking statistics in 2019 after launching our Masculinity in Engineering survey. 

Now, back in October – on World Mental Health Day – we launched our second survey investigating Masculinity in Engineering and the deadline for responses has been extended to December 31, before we then must collate and publish our findings.

So far, responses to this survey have been incredible with major media outlets like the Daily Mail, Attitude and Metro newspaper posting articles about the launch and broadsheet newspapers like The Times in contact about receiving the results with many others publications covering it also.

The survey explores if the culture of engineering is affected by the stereotype of what an engineer looks like, and how men are expected to behave. Do men feel included or excluded in the push to increase diversity? Could a more diverse profession benefit both women and men? And why do men feel pressure to behave a certain way in the workplace?

Research shows that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, with male construction workers 3.7 times more likely to take their own life. Are men able to be open about their mental health challenges, or is the stigmatisation too great? Does this manifest itself as a macho culture in the workplace or on-site which prevents an inclusive culture?

We would like to gather real views and opinions, with an expectation that respondents don’t just give the ‘right’ answers.

Inclusivity in the workplace is a health and safety issue. Not being able to be open about who you are, because of attitudes and lack of diversity around you can lead to mental health issues and decreased wellbeing. 

My hope for this latest survey is to capture the voice of men in the engineering and tech industries, individuals who perhaps feel excluded from the focus on diversity and inclusion efforts of organisations. 

We need to rapidly overhaul the way in which we approach culture change programmes within our industry, and we need to ensure everyone feels included, and is able to find their voice as part of the diversity narrative.

Results from the EqualEngineers Masculinity in Engineering Survey will be reported in Spring 2022 and you can take the survey here

For more information please visit the Masculinity in Engineering research page here.  

The future

To end, I’d just like to say that our work here at EqualEngineers to make the engineering, technology and construction sector more inclusive will continue with gusto.

I am optimistic that in 2022 our work to promote culture changes throughout the industry will have a very positive impact, making workplaces safer and putting employees health and safety at the forefront with improved atmospheres at sites and offices across the country.

And I truly believe that if we keep showcasing role models, investing and inspiring people, we will be able to celebrate the diversity of all organisations and engineers in the not too distant future – creating a better society for all in the process.

For now, I wish you a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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