Dive into diversity. What do you think when you hear ‘engineer’?

Claudia Caravello and Kirsty L. Greener Diversity Officers of the ICE London Graduate and Student committee share their learning from a recent London G&S meeting, with guest speakers from the AFBE and the BAME collective, on what diversity really means?

Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion

What springs to your mind when you think of the word diversity?

We posed this question to members in advance of our recent graduates and students meeting. Each month at the beginning of the meeting we hold a diversity moment to create awareness about a particular group/section of society and how this relates to engineering.

Diving deeper

As a practical exercise the word diversity was broken down further with associated words such as, Inclusion, Ethnicity, Disability, Sexuality, Culture, and Equality. Word clouds were used as a visual representation of the thoughts and feelings associated with each word, as in the image below.

Diversity word cloud
Diversity word cloud

Through our discussion ‘sexuality’ was widely recognized as being fluid, natural, and something to be proud of and celebrate. Looking back on the past month of June and how the UK has just celebrated Pride month and the LBGT+ community, this spurred further conversations about changing public opinions and being brave about your personal choices including allyship #YouMeUsWe.

Both ‘mental health’ and ‘human’ were popular words, indicating how mental health is rising in significance and more conversations are beginning about a once-taboo topic, and that we need to be more inclusive and considerate.

Interestingly ‘inclusion’ drew associations to the boardroom, questioning whether it's currently an inclusive place and noting the challenges involved. However, the main word that shone through was ‘everyone’, with all members agreeing that inclusion will be achieved when everyone feels welcome, comfortable, and heard.

Watch the discussion again below

Having visible role models is key

Leading the next discussion was Maryam Adeleke MICE, Structural Engineer at Arup and Schools Outreach Programme Manager for AFBE; and Favor Nwosu, creator of BAME Collective and Biomedical Science student from the University of Sussex.

Favor Nwosu stressed that visible role models are key to removing racial disparities in STEM. The BAME Collective was started to increase to help increase the representation of black and minority ethnic role models. Launching soon, its website will become a hub for information on role models and connect experiences of BAME students in STEM. The website is set for launch in the autumn and there will be opportunities for members to put themselves forward as a role model, help mentor or provide advice to upcoming students in STEM.

AFBE studies have shown '25% of engineering students are BAME whilst they make up only around 7.8% engineering professionals.’

To tackle this problem, the AFBE run transition programmes for students helping them into engineering, with their programme finding 70% are in a relevant role within 12 months. These programmes and mentoring and mentorship programmes can be found on their website.

Maryam Adeleke MICE, Structural Engineer at Arup and Schools Outreach Programme Manager for AFBE said: "The AFBE is for everyone, so anyone can engage with and support our work. Members can get involved by offering to give a presentation on their career or becoming a mentor."

The AFBE aims to display the vast array of talent in the engineering industry, inspire personal and corporate development through programmes, courses and conferences and has inspired over 4,000 young people to consider STEM.

Making small changes, professional or social, can benefit others

We should not underestimate on the difference we can make to others. Even during the word cloud exercise the word ‘disability’ was displayed in a purposefully inaccessible font that required concentration to read - highlighting how our choices can restrict others. This prompted conversations about accessibility and how small adaptations, or adjustments could make huge differences.

A great example is the ICE G&S recent Deaf Awareness Video, which is increasingly significant where lip reading ability has reduced during Covid-19. Additionally, organisations such as LinkedIn now provide additional accessibility functions such as recording your name so people can understand how to pronounce it correctly, which is so important in greeting new people.

In summation, overall it was noted that the word clouds were very positive, acknowledging challenges but also showing a willingness to change, adapt and support.

Share your story with ICE and get engaged with INWED, Pride, BAME and all the wonderful work going on in our industry from organisations such as the AFBE right now to make engineering and STEM truly representative.

Contact the BAME Collective by emailing them at [email protected].

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