The evidence* that diversity is beneficial is strong. It can be split into drivers:
Companies with more diverse workforces are more profitable, according to Women Matter 2007 by McKinsey. Companies with three or more women in senior management functions reported significantly higher levels of employee satisfaction with work environment and values, direction, coordination and control, and leadership, than those with no women. This study also found that companies with a higher proportion of women in their top management have better financial performance in terms of return on equity, operating result, and stock price growth.
A diverse workforce within a company strengthens it in all areas, including resilience, capacity to innovate, and improved financial performance. Often, a company's customers are extremely diverse, so a workforce drawn from a similarly varied pool is more likely to understand their needs.
Skills and talent
For engineering, it makes no commercial sense for companies to draw their workforce in such large numbers from only half of the population (the male half). The gender disparity in engineering is the starkest aspect of lack of diversity which needs attention.
The nature of future engineering
The future success of the engineering sector will come from addressing complex and multilayered global challenges. Without a diverse set of skills to call on, new solutions and innovation will be hard to come by.
UK society is undergoing rapid demographic change and there is ample data to show that the UK working population is becoming more diverse. In particular the numbers of women, ethnic minorities and older people in employment have increased markedly and continue to rise. The profession will not be immune to these change - indeed the profiles of other professions, notably medicine and law, have already changed visibly. The engineering profession has a vested interest in proactively tracking and responding to demographic changes in order to ensure there are no unintentional barriers to attracting people with the requisite skills and experience, whatever their background.
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Even where there is no financial argument for diversity, there is a strong ethical case in that everyone wants to be treated fairly. At the same time, engineering organisations are united by the desire to improve quality of life for society as a whole. Both these factors should drive engineering organisations to excel in implementing equality, diversity and inclusion practice. Setting goals and putting in place activities to treat people fairly, proactively include them and make their organisations more representative of society is not just the right thing to do, it will ultimately contribute to the creation of a better society.
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The Equality Act 2010 applies to all employers in England, Wales, and Scotland, and prohibits discrimination and unfair treatment of people on the grounds of: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.
The Equality Act 2010
* A research summary of the evidence of the business case for equality and diversity found that "firms have reaped business benefits from equality and diversity, but not all firms in all contexts at all times". The context and management of the diversity activity was key to its success.
The business case for equality and diversity (437.45 KB)
For more information on the Academy's Diversity programme, contact the Diversity team