Apart from the moral imperative for diversity and inclusion, an increasing body of work shows that where groups have diverse characteristics and perspectives, there is a positive effect on experience and outcome.
To achieve this effect efforts must be intentionally inclusive rather than tokenistic. Hearing the views and experiences of relatable people is important for creating a flow of diverse new talent and ideas. Conversely, putting the same people forward repeatedly (whether from under-represented groups or not), as well as restricting innovation, creates an impression of exclusivity. Although they are important and visible aspects, diversity is about more than race, gender, and disability.
Visibility of diversity of roles is important in encouraging interest in the sector. One of the key barriers identified in the KTN 2021 “Inspiring Women in Manufacturing” (IWIM) survey is the lack of visible role models. The manufacturing workforce requires more than engineers.
Leaders, managers, social scientists, policymakers, strategists, and analysts are needed. Stock images of manufacturing portray it as a career that involves machinery and wearing a ‘hard hat’ and heavy machinery – this is a narrow view of the type of work involved.
Visibility of a diverse community scored highly in the IWIM survey as a means of encouraging more women into manufacturing. Diversity encourages more diversity. Conversely, a lack of diversity is off-putting to minority groups.
Visibility of impact that reflects what is important (i.e., not what is assumed to be important) will help motivate minority groups to participate. Women, more so than men, are interested in the meaning at work and societal impact.
Waiting for inclusiveness and diversity to happen is unlikely to make a difference. A proactive and intentional strategy is required. Here are some practical steps that we as a community can take.
- Monitor who is included and how they are included. Although you might have a diverse workforce, pay attention to who is included in opportunities and whose input is considered. As a starting point, taking an informal note can be useful but in the longer term, and for larger groups, formal tracking helps establish a baseline. Tracking data can provide surprising insights that might otherwise go unnoticed. Who is included in events, meetings, decision making, proposal development, ideation? What role do they play? Looking at intersectionality is also important. Exploring combinations of priority characteristics like ethnicity and gender or gender and age can reveal gaps in insight and representation.
- A common misconception is that Diversity and Inclusion can be resolved with recruitment into STEM subjects and recruitment to entry-level positions. Whilst this is part of the challenge, Women are more likely than men to recognise that the more significant opportunity in creating a diverse workforce is around retention and progression of under-represented groups. Use data to track training, progression, and retention as well as overall proportions of protected characteristics workers in your organisation. The phenomenon of women becoming scarcer and scarcer through levels of seniority is often referred to as “the leaky pipeline".
- Be aware that minority groups might not be comfortable speaking out. Make sure you provide a comfortable and inclusive culture. Extensive research shows that minority groups face specific challenges when speaking out. Challenges include confidence, social backlash, and being misrepresented or trivialised16. As well as providing an opportunity and a space, active steps need to be taken to provide support and encouragement for under-represented groups as they articulate their strengths and views.
- Find out what motivates, inspires, and discourages under-represented communities you wish to work with and recruit, rather than assuming they have the same mindset as the current team.
- Encourage Allyship. It shouldn't just be under-represented voices championing diversity and inclusion. This is an issue that impacts every aspect of business, including profitability, productivity, and innovation. If this is left to under-represented groups, a contradictory message is being given. Research shows that male allies are instrumental in realising an inclusive culture.
- Join KTN’s Diverse Speaker List18 and share it with others in your network. KTN is keen to represent the inclusion aspect of D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) in raising the voices of the under-represented audience groups, whilst also proactively increasing the variety of perspectives in the manufacturing sector events, workshops, and round discussion. Our team working in D&I is interested in hearing from anyone who associates themselves with Manufacturing Innovation.