Recruiting out of your own image is both powerful and profitable

When it comes to discussing diversity, inclusion and equality, I can understand that the average C-suite Engineering and Manufacturing professional has just about had enough.

It feels personal. It feels like you’re being blamed for something that is far bigger than yourself. It makes you switch off and not want to engage in the debate much longer. But, there’s a problem with that: you’re missing a way to be innovative, productive and profitable on a massive scale.

So this article isn’t like all of the others you’ve read, or the training courses you’ve sat through that have made you feel that you’re somehow to blame for the lack of diversity in Engineering and Manufacturing. This article approaches diversity, inclusion and equality from a different angle – it’s just about the future and the benefits that a more diverse leadership can bring you and your business.

I’m also highly aware that it’s difficult in the Engineering and Manufacturing sectors. I rarely get the opportunity of interviewing women for Managing Director and CEO roles. It’s not because I don’t want to. There’s a shortage of talent. So, what can be done about that?

Compelling stats and facts
Before we dive into how to reap the rewards of diversity and inclusion, let’s take a quick look at why the rewards are worth it.

Looking at the bigger picture, beyond your own sector:

* Ethnically diverse organisations are 35% more likely to outperform non-diverse ones.

* Diverse organisations are 35% more like to have better financial success than non-diverse counterparts in their own industry.

* Organisations which succeed at being highly inclusive are 120% more likely to hit financial targets and create twice the amount of cash flow per employee.

* Gender diverse companies are found to be more productive and profitable.

* 85% agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce drives innovation.

* A higher representation of women in the C-suite delivers 34% better returns to shareholders.

Just this clutch of information makes for a compelling argument for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It makes you want to harness the benefits of equality, diversion and inclusion.

But then we come to Engineering and Manufacturing and the statistics are depressing:

* Only 5% of registered engineers and technicians (CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women.

* Women only account for 12.37% of all engineers in the UK. That’s the lowest percentage of female engineers in the whole of Europe.

* Just 8% of the UK’s manufacturing workforce is female.

* Only 8.1% of men and women in Engineering in the UK are from BAME groups.

All of a sudden, the argument flips and we’re left with a sense of blame and finger pointing. But a) that’s not helpful, and b) the problem is rooted in issues way before C-suite recruitment, in fact way before Engineering and Manufacturing recruitment at the lowest levels. And it’s not fair to blame the leadership of today for problems which are rooted in a time when they were still knee-high to a grasshopper.

It’s not your fault but you can do something about it
It really isn’t the fault of those at the C-suite recruitment level. Even once you understand the benefits of a diverse and inclusive leadership team, willingness isn’t enough. There just isn’t the pool of candidates that you need.

Back at school, only 25.4% of girls aged 16-18 would consider a career in engineering compared to 51.9% of boys. By undergraduate age, only 15.1% of engineering undergraduates are women. For BAME women undergraduates, the statistics are even worse.

So does this mean there is nothing you can do to capitalise on the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Absolutely not. I would argue that there are things you can do, both for today and for the future.

How to reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion when the numbers aren’t there
Let’s split this into two parts: what you can do to create a more diverse and inclusive C-suite today, and how you can contribute to a more diverse picture across the sector in the future.

How to benefit from diversity and inclusion now
There are three main ways in which you can capitalise on the diversity that is possible today:

  • Create an open and inclusive culture: Culture is fuelled by leadership. Encourage leaders, and particularly any BAME, women or disabled individuals to be visible and honest about their experiences. Welcome different perspectives and actively encourage differences. In this way you’ll begin to see how innovation is driven by these differences.
  • Listen to your workforce: Use engagement surveys with your workforce, but segment them in terms of different groups. This anonymous data will enable you to understand why there is so much attrition of diversity by the time you get to C-suite levels. Information is power which you can then use to change things. For a good example of how to do this and why it works, check out this Baker McKenzie case study.
  • Use independent recruiters: Everyone has unconscious bias. That’s not blaming, it’s just fact. By using independent specialist recruiters, you can ensure it doesn’t get a look in with your C-suite and senior level recruitment.

How to benefit from diversity and inclusion in the future
There are two main ways in which you can develop a larger talent pool to enable greater diversity and inclusion in Manufacturing and Engineering in the future:

  • Conscious talent mapping: Work with specialists, like First Executive, to create clear talent mapping plans. In this way, you will identify the talent you have now that may become the C-suite talent of the future. In this way, you can nurture and develop that talent so that it brings its benefits sooner rather than later.
  • Outreach and education: Engineering and Manufacturing need to lavish attention on the engineers of the future. I’ve said this many times, it needs to be right from primary age upwards. Girls need positive female engineering role models and BAME minority groups need to see themselves as having a place within Engineering and Manufacturing. Even by Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) considerably fewer girls would consider a career in engineering. Programmes such as BAME Girls in Engineering need to be actively participated in across the sector.

The reality is that realising and accepting our shortcomings when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion can be done without a sense of blame. It can be done in recognition of the benefits it will bring.

As a woman in this sector and with a disability, at First Executive Recruitment, our eyes are wide open about this issue and we’re skilled at bringing the benefits of diversity and inclusion forward. Let’s do things differently, without blame.

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