Women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees are vastly under-represented in engineering sector careers, with a distinct lack of diversity noted by a recent article.
Of the165,000 students studying engineering in the UK, only 16% are women. Despite employees from BAME backgrounds comprising 12% of the UK’s workforce, only 8% of engineers or technicians are BAME workers.
Engineering faces a recruitment shortfall of up to 59,000 employees, so needs to address issue of diversity. Girls need to be encouraged to study STEM subjects at A-level and beyond, but the problem cannot be solved entirely by the education system. Diversity and inclusion have to become common denominators within engineering workplaces.
According to a recent survey carried out by The Engineer, a gender pay gap is evident, albeit slightly improved. The industry itself talks of it as “an ongoing challenge”. In 2018, the difference in the average male and the average female’s pay packet was £13,000. In 2019, it was lower – just under £9000 – but this may have partly been due to a very small sample of employees being assessed. As stated within the report, even at director level, there was a pay differential of £4,000, leading to the admission that “the overall gender imbalance in engineering continues to be a cause for concern.”
There is also a worry surrounding the fact that women workers tend to be more prevalent in the academia segment of engineering (16.7%) rather than in what could be viewed as more gritty segments, such as rail, civil engineering and structural engineering.
The same situation applies to engineers from the BAME communities. In 2019, only 9.5% of engineers, across all segments, considered themselves to come from a BAME background, but in the academia segment, the percentage was 15%. Those from a BAME background fill just one-twentieth of engineering roles in the defence, sea and marine sectors. Another pay differential, between BAME and white engineers, is also evident. In 2019, BAME engineers earned an average of £42,580, whilst white engineers took home, on average, £51,963 per year.
Given these disparities, engineering workplaces could easily be the source of a variety of employment issues, be these based on inequality, lack of opportunity, employer discrimination or discriminatory incidents fostered by the prevailing culture. That culture needs to quickly adapt, to make both women and BAME employees welcome in roles but achieving this may not be easy and it is vital for workplace leaders to lead by example, show fairness to all and ensure equal opportunity when it comes to training and development.
The costs associated with tribunals and other legal proceedings are significant for any firm, not just one in the engineering sector. If there is no insurance policy in place to defend actions, these can affect a business’s finances, especially if compensation has to be paid and the cost of proceedings absorbed. Individual directors could also be personally prosecuted, should they be deemed responsible for a situation that has emerged, through their actions, inadequate training or inaction with regard to a known health and safety risk.
Amidst what will need to be major changes within engineering recruitment in the coming years, directors may well need to review their insurances regularly, protecting both the business and its directors. If you need help with this now, please contact us.