However, numbers of female engineers are low, as is the percentage of engineers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds when compared to current UK demographics. With 45% of the working population being female and a recent Policy Exchange report forecasting a growing British ethnic mix, the time for change is now. By attracting and nurturing a more diverse workforce, the engineering sector can reach untapped talent and create a more inclusive and productive industry.

The Royal Academy of Engineering is working to increase the diversity of those considering and entering the engineering profession, as part of a STEM Diversity Programme funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. 

The Academy’s Diversity Leadership Group (DLG) brings together senior representatives from 40 engineering employers and associated organisations with a shared aim to work together on practical actions to improve the situation. Allan Cook CBE, Fellow of the Academy and Chairman of WS Atkins and SEMTA, chairs the DLG.

He says: “Confidence has increased in the engineering and manufacturing sector. However if we are to make full use of the opportunities this renewed optimism will bring we need to increase the skills supply. We need to encourage and inspire more people from every background to be engineers - not as an issue of political correctness - but as a business imperative.”

The DLG focuses on attracting a diverse future generation and making engineering work environments more inclusive. The DLG works closely with Engineering UK, WISE and other organisations to maximise its impact and capitalise on work underway elsewhere. Although keen to encourage more women to discover the rewards that engineering can offer, the DLG wants to go beyond that, achieving inclusion and acceptance for all talent including ethnic minorities, disabled people and those with no family history in the profession. Success depends on demonstrated leadership commitment, tackling unconscious bias at all levels of organisations and implementing small actions on a large scale to make a difference.

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