Inclusive Engineering

The Women's Engineering Society would like to develop the following Inclusive Engineering module for inclusion in undergraduate training courses. The training could be delivered over three days, either on consecutive days or split over a longer period.

Inclusivity is a quality that can be taught and needs to be learned - by both students and staff - and just like health, safety, and ethics is one of the building blocks of science and engineering that should underpin every activity. It is a competence that students need to learn, and an umbrella concept and can be envisaged as being like looking through a lens at the activity that is being undertaken. The inclusivity lens will allow students to identify what additional requirements are necessary in the work that they do to ensure that everything that is being done is inclusive. This will apply equally to the language they use in advertising for a job, to delivering outreach, to working effectively with their colleagues, or to creating an engineering solution.

The training in this module will include:

  • Inclusive engineering solutions
  • Inclusive environments for working and learning
  • Inclusive recruiting
  • Inclusive Management
  • Legislation, Positive Action and Case Study Analysis

The training will identify a number of different groups of people whose viewpoints should be considered at all times. These groups or individuals will be drawn up by the students themselves as part of the training, and will typically include representatives of the black, minority and ethnic communities, the LGBTQI community, different ages, disabilities, genders, backgrounds, races and religions. During the training, tasks will be assigned which need to be adapted to take into account the needs of the various different groups of people.

Inclusive Engineering Solutions
Through a series of case studies inclusive engineering will be demonstrated. This will draw on examples of how engineering solutions have been delivered to developing countries without taking account of the local requirements sufficiently, and consequently gone badly wrong, as well as examples of how everyday non-inclusive engineering solutions have produced a less than optimal result.

Inclusive Environments for Working and Learning
Through case studies, role plays and discussion the learning and working environment will be investigated to see how it can be made more inclusive. Lessons learned will be applied in practice and any changes identified will be effected. The students will look at other environments and see how the principles of inclusivity can be applied. For example, museums or public spaces can be visited and the students who will audit them for inclusivity. They would then be tasked with making positive changes to ensure that improvements are made, and to assess the cost and impact that these changes would make.

Inclusive Recruitment
Psychologists recognise that humans are very skilled at making comparisons, but less skilled in making absolute judgements. This affects recruitment in that recruiters are much more likely to recruit in their own image rather than recruit somebody with different characteristics to the person currently employed for that particular job.
Training is necessary, therefore, to ensure that all candidates can be considered and compared equally.

Diverse teams are more profitable, productive, balanced and effective. Diversity of thought achieved through a mix of gender, age, culture, background and skills produces teams have a richness of strengths. Evidence to support this through reports will be examined, and the business case for diversity will be made.

Inclusive Management
The principles of inclusive management will be discussed and practical examples of how inclusivity can be fostered in the workplace will be given. Flexible working, shared maternity/paternity leave, appropriate behaviours, identification of non-inclusive practices and the identification of best practice will be examined.

Unconscious Bias Training
Unconscious bias training is very useful for identifying biases that can and should be avoided, and an overview of unconscious bias will be given.
Legislation, Positive Action and Case Study Analysis

Gender equality legislation will be outlined and examples given of where positive action is a useful tool for encouraging diversity, but in some cases positive action crosses the boundary and becomes positive discrimination, which is illegal, and this will be investigated and discussed through case studies.

Positive Action
Training will be given on a series of positive actions that can be put in place to attract, support, develop and retain diverse groups in STEM. These will be based on the best practice guides available from WES, as well as two other current best practice tools, the WISE Ten Steps and the Government’s Think, Act, Report Framework.
Learning Opportunities from Outside UK
Whilst the UK has the lowest number of women in engineering in Europe, other European countries have more positive statistics. The students should be facilitated to look at practices in Europe that are making a positive difference to attracting and retaining more diversity in STEM, and consider how these practices could be translated from one country to another.

If you are interested in finding out more about this training please contact:
Dawn Bonfield CEng, FICE, FIMMM, FWES
Chief Executive
Women's Engineering Society
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way
Stevenage, Herts. SG1 2AY
Tel. 01438 211403

April 2016