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How everyone benefits from a diverse ICE membership

06 February 2019

Amrit Ghose, who sits on the ICE London and South East Diversity Task Force, wants to encourage step change in ICE membership at all grades.

How everyone benefits from a diverse ICE membership
Inspiring Engineers speaker Alison Baptiste, Director of Operations at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, talking about her career.

Early in 2016 I saw a call for members to join the ICE London and South East Diversity Task Force. The primary aim of the task force was to look at the membership to encourage greater diversity at all levels.

I was interested as I felt that ICE should be making more positive moves in this area, in line with other professions, as well as trying to fill the skills gap in a market flooded with large infrastructure projects.

On applying, I was asked if I could co-chair the Task Force on behalf of ICE South East England, with Anusha Shah as co-chair for ICE London. The Task Force was due to be in place for a two-year period.

A common goal

The first meeting of the Task Force was very much getting to know the other members, who had all volunteered with a similar aim of wanting to influence real and effective change within the ICE, employers and membership on attitudes and inclusivity.

I was pleased to find we had a diverse group of members comprising consultants, contractors, sole practitioners, a range of ages, mix of genders, and races.

The ICE secretariat and ICE regional director had prepared material to brief the Task Force on research and feedback based on an ICE diversity strategy developed by senior members of ICE Council and ICE membership.

We had statistics which showed that ICE was some way behind a number of other engineering and built environment professional institutions, and a significant way behind other science-based careers on gender balance and BAME membership.

Details on sexual orientation of ICE membership was also very limited from surveys and feedback, which were a long way short of reflecting diversity in UK society.

Setting the objectives

Over the next year, the Task Force developed a clearer picture of the ICE membership diversity makeup and attitudes through focused regional surveys.

We also formulated a strategy and prioritised objectives and targets to promote greater awareness of diversity and the positive advantages to business.

For example, research demonstrate that diversity leads to improved productivity, better solutions through an inclusive team that reflects society and brings wider strengths and opinions, and better engagement with clients, stakeholders and the outside world.

Unconscious bias

One of the most interesting meetings we had included a session on unconscious bias, demonstrating how difficult it can be to be unbiased in our opinions and attitudes to diversity within our everyday actions and decisions.

We were given access to online unconscious bias tests to carry out at home, and I was surprised with some of the results for myself. It made me think more, and try to be more inclusive and open in working relationships, with an awareness to check my own decisions and actions at work and in my personal life for potential unconscious bias in future.

Inspiring Engineers

The Task Force wanted to produce some tangible outputs for the membership. The first was to develop the very successful ‘Inspiring Engineers’ series of breakfast briefings.

These intimate briefings have been aimed mainly at early career engineers. Hosted at ICE’s HQ, they provide access to some of the most senior, diverse and influential engineers and related discipline figures in the industry, telling their ‘career story’ and how diversity is a central feature.

Speakers have included Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Patricia Moore, Head of Infrastructure Business, Turner & Townsend, Nike Folayan and Rachel Skinner from WSP, Roma Agrawal from AECOM, and Andy Mitchell, CEO of Tideway.

At the end of the first year we produced an annual report of the activities and progress of the Task Force which we issued to membership via the website.

Setting up ‘Lean-in Groups’

During the second year, the Task Force remained focused on delivery of outputs for membership designed to make a difference and moved on to more support groups linked to diversity.

Lean-in Groups were set up with regular meetings to network, share experiences and to provide confidential help and advice on any diversity issues, including bullying, harassment or discrimination.

The Lean-in groups include early career women, mid-career women, senior women, LGBT and BAME.

The Inspiring Engineers series is also continuing with regular breakfast briefings. Resource materials are also being made available for ICE Ambassadors to support school visits, with some targeting BAME or female entrants to the industry.

Diversity at ICE is gaining more momentum

I’ve gained a huge amount from participation on the Diversity Task Force, from networking to enhanced knowledge and influence over increasing and encouraging diversity changes in the ICE membership.

I’ve made some great friends and met some incredible and passionate people along the way who have the best interests of the profession at heart.

I’m encouraged that the aims of the Task Force are being met, and that change and influence for fairness, inclusion and diversity within ICE membership is gaining more momentum.

I joined the ICE Civil Engineering Journal Editorial Panel last August, and was pleasantly surprised that the first task was to review and advise the panel regarding new members. The panel had approached female ICE Fellows to replace members stepping down from the panel.

Nine new female members were identified and accepted, resulting in what is now a 50% female membership of highly qualified and experienced professionals, with influence over the primary journal for global membership of ICE.

To find out more about the ICE London and SEE Diversity Task Force or to get involved, see here or contact [email protected].

  • Amrit Ghose, London and South East diversity task force at ICE