13 May 2019

Diversity in Engineering: Heads Up Bristol round-up

We recently headed to The Square Club in Bristol to get HR and internal comms professionals from the engineering sector together for some coffee, croissants and D&I chat.

We wanted to hear from people on the ground to see what their experiences and challenges are around the subject of D&I. From gender to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation to physical disability, we’re finally starting to see industries welcome a diverse range of previously under-represented candidates. However, despite advances, there is still more we can do to promote inclusivity, particularly in engineering firms where diversity is so often lagging behind.

This was our first Heads Up of 2019 and we had a great turnout, with faces from Dyson, Buro Happold and Kohler Mira in the mix. Chris kicked things off by introducing the subject, our guest speakers and their areas of expertise, before it was time to get into some fascinating presentations. 

Our resident behavioural science expert Chloe came along to chat about unconscious bias and the effect that it can have on workplaces, noting that we inadvertently tend to ‘stick with our tribe’ and hire people like ourselves and that this needs addressing in order to improve workplace diversity.

Chloe also explored the various ways companies can foster a culture that celebrates everyone, showcasing some of the work we’ve done at Synergy with Caterpillar to encourage communication between all of their employees across Geneva, Singapore and Peoria and strive for a more diverse workplace. 

We then heard from Dr Vanda Papafilippou from UWE Bristol, all about her research into the impact formal women’s networks can have on the career identities of females in engineering roles. Vanda’s research highlights the competitive and often aggressive working culture of the engineering sector and the positive effects that joining these networks can have on women’s self-esteem and career progression.

Her top tip? Support women’s networks practically, whether that’s by helping with the admin of them, appointing a dedicated person to manage them or getting input from leadership. 

Last to take the floor was Carlie Walker from Work180, a platform that pre-screens employers to see how well they support women’s careers. Carlie talked us through their work helping companies to be more diverse, inclusive and ethical.

They support companies who aren’t quite up to scratch on diversity and inclusion and promote roles at companies that are already getting it right. Their HR health check helps organisations to see what stage they’re at in the journey to be inclusive and ethical and suggests ways in which they could improve.

Carlie spoke of the need for gender-neutral job ads and the importance of language when trying to attract a diverse pool of candidates for a role. Organisations can fall into a trap of using quite masculine language which can be off-putting for a lot of people. Ensuring job adverts appeal to a wide range of different people could help to see an upturn in levels of diversity. 

It was a great morning event and it’s always promising to see people coming along to discuss the challenges around this subject. It’s a conversation that needs to continue and it’s important to have a diverse mix of voices taking part. As we discussed in our interview with Felicity Furey, it’s vital that men, particularly those in leadership roles, join in with this subject, so to see only one man in attendance for this event shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to get buy-in from male engineers on this topic.

We hope that by hosting events like this, the conversation will carry on and more people will be invested in creating a more inclusive and diverse engineering industry. 

Thanks to everyone who took part in this Heads Up event; we hope everyone got a lot out of it. Our next Heads Up will be all about employer branding, exploring some case studies and hearing from our Head of Strategy Rhiannon about her experience at World Employer Branding Day. Grab your tickets and we’ll see you there! 

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