Inclusion, diversity and equality – a professional matter

31 Jul 2019

There is increasing acceptance in modern Western society of the need for organisations to be better at promoting inclusion, diversity and equality. Some of this is driven by changes to society’s view of the ethical position.

For example, in 1984, 43% of Britons agreed with the statement ‘a man’s job is to earn money, a woman’s job is to look after the home and family’; by 2017 that had dropped to 8%. Similarly, in 1983, 17% of Britons thought same-sex relationships to be ‘not wrong at all’; by 2018 this had risen to 66%.

Another driver is the changing legal framework, such as the Equality Act 2010 in Britain, changes to legal arrangements for same-sex couples, etc.

A third important, more recently recognised, driver is the recognition of the additional value an organisation gets from having a more diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The overall shortage we face in the pool of scientists and engineers available in the UK would be eased if more women, ethnic minorities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds entered these fields. More workforce diversity is also linked to greater innovation, reduced reputational risk, better talent retention and less groupthink. The evidence is increasingly showing that promoting a more inclusive and diverse workforce and managing it appropriately is vital to continued organisational success.

So, as a professional membership body there are many reasons for IOM3 to promote greater diversity and inclusion within its own operations and to its members. We have looked hard at our peer review processes to check them for bias and made changes to tackle any issues identified. We have run sessions on unconscious bias for our peer reviewers and our team. We will, where we can, remove age limits for awards, bursaries, grants and scholarships and we are introducing diversity monitoring for our awards, training and events activities. There is of course much more to do. For example, the diversity of our governance structures is mostly poor, and we are looking at whether to adopt the Royal Academy of Engineering/Science Council Diversity and Inclusion Progression Framework to support this.

Our proportion of female members (19%) is low compared with the general population but compares well with other professional engineering institutions, which are probably less than 10%. This is helped by the active women’s networks that the Institute supports and our successful Women into Fellowship initiative. We can’t currently easily collect any non-gender diversity information for members, but we have plans to change this, which will give us a better understanding of the wider diversity situation. We have recently shown our support for various national and global diversity ‘Days’ and will, for example, be sponsoring the 2020 LGBT STEMinar next January.

IOM3 is also looking to establish a support network for members who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies, based on the successful Women In Materials model. If you are prepared to help get this off the ground, or would like to be kept informed of activities, please contact Emily Radley who has volunteered to lead this initiative.

Finally, IOM3 already requires its members to comply with a code of professional conduct, which includes respecting others, and this is supported by our statement on equality, diversity and inclusion.

There is certainly more IOM3 and our members can all do in our everyday activities to continue to promote the importance and benefits of greater diversity and a more inclusive workplace. From making sure colleagues who cannot go to the bar after work aren’t excluded from social events to challenging unacceptable workplace behaviours or supporting more flexible working patterns, together we can make a difference. I would encourage a wider range of members to consider putting themselves forward to play a bigger role in the life of the Institute too, which will also help us progress. If you have any suggestions as to how to take these ideas further, please get in touch with us and share your thoughts.

Colin Church, CEO of IOM3