Engineering and science professional bodies benchmark performance on diversity and inclusion for the first time

For the first time, professional bodies across engineering and science have joined forces to benchmark their performance on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Twenty professional engineering institutions (PEIs) and 21 scientific bodies self-assessed their performance in eight areas of professional body activity: governance and leadership; membership and professional registration; meetings, conferences and events; education and training, accreditation and examinations; prizes, awards and grants; communications, marketing, outreach and engagement; employment; and monitoring and measuring.

Findings from the exercise show that:

  • Governance and leadership is an area of strength;
  • D&I performance is weakest in education and training, accreditation and examinations, and in prizes, awards and grants;
  • Women are better represented on boards, as chairs of board committees and in the membership of science professional bodies than PEIs;
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are better represented on the boards of PEIs than of scientific professional bodies, although very few of the participating professional bodies across engineering and science have any BAME people in senior staff leadership positions;
  • Patterns of self-assessment are very similar across both sectors, but more data and resources are needed to continue the work of monitoring and development.

The benchmarking exercise, led by a collaboration between the Academy and the Science Council, is based on a Diversity and Inclusion Progression Framework developed to support professional body commitment to long-term action on D&I, and complement the traditional focus on increasing the numbers of employee from diverse backgrounds.

Almost all professional bodies provided data on the representation of women on their boards, in their memberships and in employment within their organisations. Women are well represented both on boards and in their employment, with more than half having over 30% female board members and 50% female employees. However, there are significant differences in female representation within the memberships of engineering and science professional bodies at 13% and 34% respectively. This is likely to reflect the fact there are more women going into science than into engineering.

Around half of the organisations submitted data on representation of BAME people within their membership and employment. Across 19 professional bodies, BAME people make up more than 11% of employees; and across nine of them, they make up more than 10% of the membership.

The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Science Council have brought together their respective engineering and scientific professional bodies today to begin the process of addressing findings and recommendations from the report.

Improving diversity and inclusion is a major focus for the Royal Academy of Engineering. Engineering organisations have been shown to benefit from creating diverse and inclusive working environments. In a recent survey of 7,000 UK engineers by the Royal Academy of Engineering, 80% of engineers said that feeling included at work increased their motivation and 68% said it increased their overall performance.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says:

“This report highlights that the bodies that make up the professional engineering community are taking their leadership role on D&I seriously, and making good progress in several areas, including setting goals, integrating diversity and inclusion into communications and raising awareness of unconscious bias.

“However, there is more we need to do to identify and formalise success measures, integrate diversity and inclusion into our core functions and activities, and extend the scope of our work beyond gender. I look forward to working with colleagues across the professional bodies to make sure we accelerate progress towards a diverse and inclusive profession in the years ahead.”

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of the Science Council, says:

“What was accepted in the past is still too often accepted, even to this day. The leaders in science who set the direction and create the rules by which science is governed over-represent the academic, male, white and older part of the science workforce. Our society has changed, and become more diverse and that must be reflected in a modern-day science and technology workforce and its leadership.

“This framework and benchmarking exercise will set us all on a path to improving the range of people working in science and engineering.”

A joint report of D&I performance across both engineering and science professional bodies can be found here, together with a separate professional engineering institution report

A separate report on the performance of scientific bodies can be found here

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