Diversity: it’s too hard …


It is widely acknowledged that the industrials sector struggles with attracting diverse talent. Construction News recently reported that the construction industry has the worst gender pay gap in the UK, with women earning ‘30.3% lower than the average for men’. In their report LGTB+ survey: Construction’s Slow Progress Laid Bare, it was also revealed that ‘just over half (54%) of LGBT+ respondents did not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender on site’.

We all know why: there is a limited pipeline of diverse talent at entry level, possibly deterred by the male dominated culture instilled across the sector by the nature of the work, creating an environment which lacks diversity and has unconscious bias embedded into working practices and cultures.

Many companies in the sector are making genuine commitments to improve diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. The Government has made a commitment to boost diversity in the sector by increasing the proportion of women taking up technical and engineering apprenticeships to at least 20% by 2020. The employer-led Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce is committing to improving under-represented groups taking apprenticeships in the transport sector. The Rail Minister, Andrew Jones, has stated that the rail industry is in need of more digital skills and greater workplace diversity going forward.

But this change won’t happen overnight. There is a fundamental shift in societal thinking that needs to take place: at a recent Diversity Breakfast, one of our guest speakers relayed the results of a study where young boys and girls (around 3 to 4 years old) were read a story involving a ‘hero’. Shown a picture of a girl and a boy and asked to identify the hero, boys chose the boy and girls chose the girl. By the time the children were 6, both boys and girls identified the boy as being the hero.

An EngineeringUK study in 2017 found that 25% of girls aged 11-14 wanted to become engineers, falling to 20% for those aged 14-16, and dropping further to just 12% for those aged 16-19. Conversely, that same study found that 38% of boys aged 11-14 wanted to become engineers, climbing to 40% for those aged 14-16, and falling to 32% for those aged 16-19.

However, according to WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), 9% of UK female graduates in 2018 graduated with a Core STEM qualification, up from 8% in 2017. The only subject that saw a slight decrease was Mathematics.

Providing equal opportunity is also more than just a reference to a moral compass. It’s proven that diversity has a material impact on business:

  • Companies with a more equal gender balance are up to 20% more profitable (McKinsey 2017)
  • Companies with greater ethnic and cultural diversity are up to 30% more profitable (McKinsey 2017)
  • UK engineering is losing more than £11bn a year due to LGBT+ engineers feeling unable to be themselves at work – a 30% reduction in productivity (InterEngineering 2016)
  • …and all of this is within the context that the UK has an annual shortfall of 20,000 engineers (manufacturer.com)

So it is a critical issue. The depth of the problem and need for fundamental long term change can deter real action and perpetuate the issue. Government and organisations in the sector need to invest in consciously promoting opportunities at entry level to diverse candidates; businesses need to address working practices to enable culture change to attract and retain diverse talent; and risks need to be taken to provide opportunity for diverse talent to take an increasing share of leadership roles.

However, all is not doom and gloom. There are some basic fundamentals you can adopt to make a more immediate impact on your workplace. Having assessed activities that make a difference across our clients there are five key themes:

  • Lateral hiring to increase your talent pool: exploring transferable skills and most complementary sectors.
  • Improve your employer brand: re-assessing employer value proposition (EVP) to change brand perception in the market
  • You know what you’re saying…but does the target audience?: reviewing language and imagery used to ensure appeal to the right people
  • Invest in longer term onboarding and new hiring aftercare: committing to more substantive, longer term onboarding and feedback sessions with mentors and managers
  • Be inclusive not just diverse: listen to the varying needs of all employees and act on changes across wellbeing, flexible working conditions and other areas

Most organisations recognise these issues, but few go the extra mile to truly adopt them. As competition increases this will no longer be an option.

If you would like to discuss how Norman Broadbent can help you overcome your business or people challenges, or to specifically discuss Diversity & Inclusivity, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui Pinnell or Ed Bransby-Zachary for an initial and confidential conversation.