Engineering’s racial inequality revealed by new report

Black engineering graduates are less likely to find jobs than white students with lower second or third class degrees, according to a new Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) report that highlights some significant inequalities within the profession.

The Diversity in Engineering report found that being black or minority ethnic was a bigger obstacle to employment than any other factor considered, including the type of degree gained, attending a less prestigious university or gender.

Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin spoke to Infrastructure Intelligence to give us his views on the report.

“The RAEng report confirms what is widely known but nobody want to admit within the engineering profession. It highlights once again that addressing the diversity and inclusion challenge is a major business imperative for the UK engineering sector. 

“The recent RAEng diversity and inclusion leadership initiative, which includes this particular study, has raised this issue for major debate across the engineering sector. As such, the RAEng must be congratulated for its leadership, but we have a very long way to go.

“Whilst a number of large engineering companies have started to address the diversity and inclusion challenge, most of this work has concentrated on gender balance which could be seen as an easier option. It would take some considerable time before we can see evidence of a change in attitudes, with the biggest area being unconscious, biased discrimination.

“We need to do better and we need to make urgent progress. The EngineeringUK 2016 State of Engineering analysis outlined that the UK has the potential to generate an additional £27bn per year by 2022, and needs 257,000 new vacancies in engineering to deliver the increasing engineering projects pipeline and maintain our competitive advantage. With an ageing population, inadequate or low skills, combined with anticipated Brexit impact, the industry rejects the diversity and inclusion challenge at its peril. 

“Whilst I am not a great advocate of legislation or quota systems, leadership is needed required by the captains of industry to have a meaningful and robust diversity and inclusion strategy in place. Such a strategy should include, but not be limited to, benchmarking their business, appointment of a dedicated diversity champion, creating mentoring programmes, setting their own targets and monitoring and reporting progress as part of the company’s non-financial report for management and wider stakeholders.

“Achieving the above strategy is a starting point. However, client leadership on their approach to the procurement process is also equally an important and effective means in changing the supply chain’s internal culture on diversity and inclusion.   

“One of the RAEng’s current initiatives is to develop a diversity and inclusion procurement standard guideline for the UK transport sector. This initiative has secured the backing of DfT, Highways England, Network Rail, HS2, Cross Rail, TfL and a number of industry representative bodies such as ACE and major supply chain players across the industry. The RAEng steering group responsible for this initiative has also responded to the BSI consultation on the subject. 

“Whilst diversity and inclusion continued to make the news headlines in 2016, we must as an engineering sector, walk the talk and demonstrate sustainable progress in 2017. Engineering sector leaders must be prepared to lead by example, be bold, take risks and embrace a diversity and inclusion culture within their organisation. Otherwise, the sector will continue to fail to attract the diverse talents we need.”

The RAEng has published a number of useful resources on diversity and inclusion which are essential reading for those interested in taking a proactive approach on the issue. Click here to download them

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