How increasing diversity gives companies an edge

The biggest challenge facing the engineering sector is how to remain profitable, productive, innovative and viable in a challenging environment in which we are facing serious and worsening skills shortages and an ageing workforce.

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Increasing diversity in engineering – especially gender diversity where there is a fairly large pool of untapped talent – is the obvious solution, and it has the advantage of not only supplying talent but also supplying an edge to companies who get inclusivity right. But the practicalities of how to achieve this remain a mystery for many companies who want to do the right thing without it being merely a box-ticking exercise, but don’t know how to.

Much talk of quotas has appeared lately, and while these seem unpalatable to many individuals, including the women themselves, there is no doubt that legislation drives change. While quotas for employment may be a step too far, quotas for a 50/50 male-to-female ratio for jobs shortlists is a serious and plausible alternative. Another key driver of behaviour would be the publishing of not only pay but also of corporate gender ratios per occupational grade, and these should be published openly, along with targets for improvement.

At the end of the day true corporate diversity requires a cultural change, and this is true of our society in general as much as it is for the engineering sector in particular. But change is coming, and companies who wish to survive and thrive should ensure that they are at the front of the race.

Dawn Bonfield is president of the Women’s Engineering Society


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