Academy calls on engineering business leaders to use data to drive culture change


The Royal Academy of Engineering has called on engineering organisations to increase their use of data to measure and improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the profession at a recent ‘Data-Driven Culture Change’ event. Attendees also debated the state of D&I in engineering organisations.

The benefits of a data-driven approach for both large and small companies were demonstrated by presentations from multinational IBM and CustoMem, a start-up focusing on capturing hazardous chemicals from water. Gary Kildare, Chief HR Officer at IBM Corporation Europe, highlighted the potential of data and artificial intelligence to help improve and extend the diversity of workforces. Henrik Hagemann, CustoMem’s CEO and Co-Founder, outlined his philosophy of building a small team with specialist skills while consciously looking for maximum diversity.

At the event, attendees from across the engineering profession discussed the initial findings from a survey conducted in the summer of 2018 to shed light on the state of D&I in engineering employment; the full report will be published next year.

The survey found differences in the perceptions, actions and experiences of engineering employers of different sizes in relation to D&I and that smaller organisations typically face challenges that limit their capacity to promote D&I. The Academy plans to address this by working with start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) leaders from the Academy’s Enterprise Hub to develop guidance specific to smaller organisations.

Many engineering employers, especially smaller organisations, thought it unlikely that increasing D&I in their businesses would reduce or eliminate skills shortages, but they did identify other benefits, including improving company image or reputation, improving compliance with legislation and increasing collaboration.

Previous research, ‘Creating cultures where all engineers thrive’, found that inclusion benefits the performance of individual engineers, with 80% reporting increased motivation, 68% reporting increased performance and 52% reporting increased commitment to their organisations.

The Academy launched guidance at the event to provide leaders, managers and people managers across engineering with the tools to use existing and new data as a powerful lever for change.

John McCollum, Engineering Director at BAE Systems and member of the Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Group Steering Group, said: “Measurement of diversity and inclusion is crucial to effect change across the engineering profession. The profession needs to become better at measuring diversity and inclusion to target interventions and actions and make meaningful progress.”

Measures for D&I in engineering were developed by the engineering companies working with the Academy to provide a framework to drive change across organisations, from large corporations to SMEs, irrespective of whether they are beginning their D&I journey or progressing towards maturity and beyond. The measures are validated by the Employer’s Network of Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) and tested with both large corporate organisations and SMEs to confirm relevance and proportionality.