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Diversity of thought drives creativity and innovation

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Mara-Tafadzwa Makoni

Corporate Partnerships Lead, AFBE, UK

Creativity and innovation are business critical, especially for senior leadership. The under-representation of BAME individuals within senior leadership and on boards is widely acknowledged and must be challenged.  

It is reported that 37% of the FTSE 100 companies do not have a BAME director where the figure was only 31% for FTSE 250 companies. The picture is even grimmer for BAME women. Almost 90% of engineering firms have no women from BAME backgrounds either on their board or in their executive team. Less than 1% (0.8%) of all executive and board positions in the top 500 engineering firms are held by BAME women. 

Engineering employers and the professional institutions representing employees should be mindful of intersectionality within the workplace and across the industry, in order to retain and recruit talent.

To do this, organisations and professional institutions alike should advocate for legislation and policies for companies that structurally embed and reproduce sexism/racism.

Recognising discrimination in the workplace 

The Equality Act 2010 addresses the issues of discrimination on the grounds of 14 protected characteristics. However, this does not go far enough in recognising that within the workplace, people have diverse, multifaceted identities that come together and impact their lived experience at work. They may suffer discrimination because of one or more of these protected characteristics. Consequently, intersectionality has been little addressed in direct terms by most diversity and inclusions strategies/polices relative to representation and participation on the basis of demographic characteristics and interconnections. 

At AFBE-UK we have regularly documented and presented on how the interconnections of gender, race, ethnicity and socio-economic factors influence perceptions and decisions about whether to pursue an engineering degree. As an example, many of our AFBE-UK members have reported not only experiencing discrimination due to their ethnicity, but also for coinciding gender, sexuality, caregiving, ability and age identities. Furthermore, minority experiences are often marked by issues such as negative stereotypes, unequal access to resources and barriers to participation and opportunities for career progression.  

Approximately 52% of BAME employees need to leave their current employers to progress.

Addressing talent retention issues  

According to a 2018 report by Race at Work in the UK, career progression is important to 70% of BAME respondents. Yet approximately 52% of BAME employees need to leave their current employers to progress. Poor retention rates of diverse employees are often reflective of some of these negative experiences that BAME employees experience within organisations which do not actively address intersectionality. Ultimately, the high turnover can often generate a negative corporate reputation.  

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