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Achieving a truly diverse workforce is a major challenge

Diversity in Engineering

Jun 2020


Achieving a truly diverse workforce is a major challenge for the engineering industry, with women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers notably under-represented within the engineering sector, according to a recent article.[1]

Women comprise only 16% of the 165,000 students studying engineering in the UK and, whilst BAME individuals make up 12% of the UK’s workforce and constitute only 8% of engineers or technicians.

The industry faces significant shortfalls in recruitment, totalling around 59,000 workers a year, a potential solution could be to attract girls and encourage them to study STEM subjects beyond GCSE level, but it is not all about sea-changes within the education system. Workplace cultures will also have to change, to embrace diversity and promote inclusion.

One major issue is the gender pay gap which, although closing, is still a problem within the engineering industry and which is said to be an ongoing challenge.[2] According to a recent survey carried out by The Engineer, the pay differential between the average male salary and average female salary has closed from £13,000 in 2018 to just under £9,000 in 2019, but the sample surveyed, in order to assess this, was a small one. At director level, the pay differential was £4,000. As has been stated within the report, “the overall gender imbalance in engineering continues to be a cause for concern.”

Furthermore, engineering covers many sectors such as rail, civil engineering and structural engineering but it is within academia that the highest proportion of women are to be found (16.7%).

The same is true for engineers from BAME backgrounds. Overall, in 2019, only 9.5% of engineers described themselves as BAME, whilst this rose to 15% of those in academia. Only one-twentieth of engineers in the defence, sea and marine sectors were from the BAME demographic. Non-white engineers earned an average of £42,580 in 2019, whilst white engineers enjoyed an average salary of £51,963.

This makes many engineering firms potential hosts of workplaces in which employment issues could arise and result in legal cases and tribunals, either because of employer discrimination or because of a culture in which discriminatory incidents can occur. The industry desperately needs to embrace both women and BAME employees but whether the culture can be quickly adapted and made a welcoming environment for these employees remains to be seen. The years ahead will be tricky ones for some leaders to manage but it is essential that leaders set the tone and outline how they expect their workplace to operate.

At the present time, many engineering firms could be risking the costs associated with tribunals and other legal proceedings, sometimes without the right insurance in place to defend actions, should cases arise.

Amidst what will need to be major changes within engineering recruitment in the coming years, it may be essential to keep an eye on insurance covers for both the business and its directors, checking the right ones are in place. If you need help with this now, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool, to source an expert who can assist you.

Sources:

[1] https://www.theengineer.co.uk/diversity-engineering-burnsmdonnell/

[2] https://theengineer.markallengroup.com/production/content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Salary-Survey.pdf

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