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Industry 'must do better' in dealing with racism

23 July 2021

A membership survey has led to ICE developing a new toolkit for employers and a Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Action Plan for 2021-2025. 

Industry 'must do better' in dealing with racism

The civil engineering industry can, and must, do better at recognising and eliminating racism at all levels – that’s one of the key findings of a recent ICE survey.

The survey of UK members, led by ICE’s Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Committee, asked respondents a series of questions about their experience of racism across the sector.

In response, the institution has undertaken a series of actions, including the publication of the survey, a new Anti-Racism Toolkit for employers, and a new Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Action Plan (formerly the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan) for 2021-2025.

ICE's Anti-Racism Toolkit

The toolkit is aimed at small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which were identified in the survey as not always having the same level of resource to tackle the issue as larger corporates.

The online toolkit, produced in association with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers, offers advice on how to make tangible changes in helping improve the working lives of Black and minority ethnic engineers.

It offers suggestions on establishing an ED&I baseline for the company, on how to talk about race and how to be an ally in the workplace; it also provides practical advice on recruitment and mentoring of Black and minority ethnic engineers.

Kate Cairns, chair of ICE’s Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Committee, said:

“We need to understand the scale and depth of the issue, so with our survey we asked, we listened, and we acknowledge the experiences of our UK members. The results of the survey are stark. The prevalence of racism within our industry is clear. Ignoring behaviour which impacts lives so acutely and so profoundly is no longer acceptable.

"ICE is committed to leading change within our industry, and at the same time tackling issues within our own organisation. The subsequent action is the ICE and AFBE Anti-racism Toolkit for Employers; an offer of best practice strategies and advice on how to improve workplaces to ensure everyone feels respected and valued."

Engineering diversity

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'We take the issue seriously'

Cairns reiterated ICE's "commitment" to inclusion.

“Drawing on evidence from the FIR Survey on Racism, the toolkit aims to drive positive change in behaviours across the workforce so that employers can really make a difference to the culture within their business. This is a first step in helping all organisations make the lives of their Black and minority ethnic employees better. We will continue to listen, to learn and to assist our industry and support our members.

“ICE is committed to being more inclusive and welcoming for its members. The publication of our latest Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Action Plan demonstrates we take the issue seriously and recognise it is an iterative and ongoing process," she said.

'Uniting the sector to advance racial justice'

Mara-Tafadzwa Makoni, corporate partnerships lead at AFBE-UK, said: “Meaningful and sustained systemic change to tackle racism and inequality in society is long overdue. AFBE-UK is delighted to have worked with ICE in delivering a toolkit which will create, support and sustain the much-needed dialogue about racism within the sector, professional workplace and unite the sector in taking actions to actively advance racial justice.

“We are proud to see the ICE committing to standing in solidarity with their membership, the engineering community and specifically Black and minority ethnic members to meaningfully engage and drive change.”

The survey results

Respondents were asked, among other things, to assess the extent of racism in in the workplace with 81% of Black and minority ethnic members saying they had experienced a degree of racism. The report also suggested a gender and generational gap with women and younger engineers more aware of racism.

The report showed that during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the risk of redundancy was higher amongst Black and minority ethnic groups - at the time of the survey 12% of White members were at risk of redundancy, while 18% of Black ethnicities and 22% of Asian/Asian British were in this category.

Respondents were also asked to give their thoughts on those actions that ICE should take to help tackle the problem. Among the more common responses were suggestions to take more of a leadership role, adopting an actively anti-racist stance, do more to raise awareness of the issue and encourage more dialogue around the subject.

The survey also prompted a review and update of ICE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The plan allows for better assessment, monitoring and measurement of progress against a range of key point indicators including publication of data on ICE membership demographics, collecting metrics on panel and committee composition, and analysing attrition rates from the membership pipeline.

  • Simon Barney, head of communications at ICE