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5 diversity schemes all civil engineering organisations can adopt

28 September 2022

Read more about these case studies, which feature in the ICE’s updated Anti-Racism Toolkit.

5 diversity schemes all civil engineering organisations can adopt
Inge-Sarah Andersen, Loraine Martins and Georgia Thompson (pictured left to right) feature in the case studies for their innovation and involvement.

If you’re interested in improving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at your organisation, the following schemes may provide some inspiration.

These programmes have helped to raise awareness about the lived experience of Black and minority ethnic civil engineers across the industry.

1. Reverse mentoring – Network Rail

When Andrew Haines joined Network Rail as chief executive, he wanted to find out from people of different backgrounds what it was like to work in the business.

A reverse mentoring scheme was set up, where a junior employee mentors someone who is more senior than them on topics of strategic and cultural relevance.

Inge-Sarah Andersen, project engineer, was one of the employees chosen to reverse mentor Andrew.

"Initially it was probably a bit nerve-racking - how do we talk to each other? One of us almost a child; the other obviously not. In fact, it worked really well,” Anderson says.

She explains: “We were both interested in each other’s experiences, and I think what I hadn’t expected was how much I learned from a chief executive’s perspective.”

The mentorship scheme’s successes, such as an International Women’s Day campaign, prompted further development.

The scheme was extended to include the entire executive scheme, which was in part a response to George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement, but also an opportunity to improve its leadership capacity.

2. Ethnicity pay gap reporting - Mott MacDonald

In May 2020, Mott MacDonald reported on its ethnicity pay gap for the first time.

Furthermore, it committed to publishing further reports on an annual basis alongside its gender pay gap.

Cathy Travers, regional managing director, explains: "The requirement to report improved the level of focus, transparency and open dialogue on our gender equality efforts and we wanted to bring the same level of focus to our race equality work.”

Sophie Lea, Mott MacDonald’s EDI manager in the UK, explains that the consultancy used the same methodology for gender pay gap reporting. It also looked to other organisations who’d done it before to guide its approach.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from colleagues who welcomed the transparency about where we are on the pay gap and ethnic minority representation and were interested to see what we were doing to ensure improvement,” Lea says.

Travers says: "As one of the first engineering consultancies to report on our ethnicity pay gap, we hope that other organisations in our industry will join us."

3. Proud to be me video – Arcadis

For Black History Month, Arcadis worked with its Black and minority ethnic colleagues and allies to collect stories and produce a video that has had a major effect on its staff’s behaviour.

It posed the question: What if things were different, how would you feel?

It features the experiences of racism in the workplace that Black and minority ethnic colleagues have faced, told by their white colleagues.

They explain how they feel like they can’t bring their whole solves to work, or how they have to modify themselves or their behaviour to fit in.

Arcadis reminds its employees: “We can’t change the past, but we do all have a part to play now and in shaping the future. We must open our eyes and our minds to become a truly inclusive business.”

4. Running a book club – D-VERS-TY

If open conversations about race are relatively new to your organisation, you can follow Georgia Thompson’s example and start a book club.

Thompson, design delivery manager, rail engineer and co-founder of D-VERS-TY, has been working with built environment professionals to incorporate more diversity in design.

Instead of a training session, they held a book club where they read Mismatch by Kat Holmes.

Holmes’ book delves into the biases present in design and argues for innovative, inclusive methods that work for all.

“What happens is that everyone reads the same thing, but they bring very different perspectives to the conversation, and the participants start to learn and discuss how others see things,” Thompson says.

“It’s a genuinely intersectional way of working covering much more than ethnicity– for example household size, disability, age-proofing and so on.”

If you’d like to start your own book club, here are a few books to consider.

5. Employee networks - Tideway

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Tideway’s Race Equality Group created the Let’s Talk About Race series to hold high-quality debates open to every person working on the project.

The online event featured award-winning broadcasters, authors and performers such as David Olusoga, Afua Hirsch and Akala.

The events had a huge impact and high engagement across Tideway, from those working for the client to programme managers and delivery teams.

If you’d like to develop a similar initiative, the following resources might be useful:

  • The Supply Chain Sustainability School: Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Toolkit

    The toolkit includes modules like the Race and Intercultural Competence: Parts 1 and 2, which offer brief introductions to starting a journey toward anti-racism.

    Learn more

  • CIPD: How to set up an employee resource group (ERG) for black and ethnic minority employees

    Eight steps to help employers establish an ERG for black and ethnic minority employees, including the business case for doing so.

    Find out more

  • Business in the Community (BITC): Race at Work Charter

    Details of this campaign from Business in the Community and the charter's seven calls to action.

    Become a signatory

  • Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review

    Independent review by Baroness McGregor-Smith considering the issues affecting people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the workplace.

    Read the review

Access the full Anti-Racism Toolkit V2

The ICE has published a second version of its Anti-Racism Toolkit to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to EDI.

The aim of the toolkit is to offer a voice to the lived experiences of the ICE’s Black and minority ethnic members. It seeks to ensure that civil engineering is an industry that is representative of those who work in it.

It’s no longer enough to be non-racist or not overtly offensive. The ICE calls for the industry to treat racism the same way it treats a health and safety issue – stop and report it.

The Anti-Racism Toolkit V2

  • Ana Bottle, digital content editor at ICE