Engineering Inclusivity: Bridging the Gap with DEI

Article by Mark McBride-Wright MBE CEng MIChemE

Mark McBride-Wright says diversity, equity and inclusion requires the perfect integration of unique components – a concept engineers should already be familiar with

JUNE is Pride Month, a time when our streets burst into vibrant spectrums of colour, and yet, here I am, a chemical engineer turned advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), discussing the seemingly colourless confines of engineering.

It’s been a good seven years or so since I last connected with readers of TCE, and a lot has changed. During this time, my career trajectory has swung from the technical rigours of engineering to pioneering an engineering DEI consultancy, EqualEngineers, and authoring a book titled The SAFE Leader. But why should the engineering community care about DEI? Is there really a place for such discussions in our discipline?

The engineering of self: Discovering diversity

Think of an engineering project. From concept to completion, it’s a complex integration of diverse components that must align perfectly under precise conditions to function. Isn’t a team of engineers quite similar? Everyone is a unique component, and when properly integrated, the team operates at peak performance. The challenge, however, lies in ensuring each component – each team member – fits well within the system, irrespective of their background or identity. Reflecting on my journey as a chemical engineer who has navigated personal challenges as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I see parallels between engineering processes and cultivating diverse teams. In engineering, a slight miscalculation or overlooked detail can compromise the entire system’s safety. Similarly, in team dynamics, failing to recognise or accommodate diversity can lead to inefficiencies, decreased morale, and a jeopardised safety culture.

Safety and diversity: Two sides of the same coin

In The SAFE Leader, I delve into the intricate linkage between mental health, safety, and DEI, particularly within the high-stakes environment of the process industries. Consider this: process safety is about preventing unexpected variations that could lead to catastrophic failures. DEI, similarly, involves managing human variables – diverse thoughts, experiences, and perspectives – to prevent organisational failures.

Our industry is marred by higher mental ill-health and suicide rates than most other sectors in the UK.1 This is not just a troubling statistic, it’s a clarion call for better safety protocols, which include psychological safety. An inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and understood is not just ethical, it’s safer. When engineers of all backgrounds feel secure to express concerns or share insights, the likelihood of overlooking critical safety issues diminishes.

Article by Mark McBride-Wright MBE CEng MIChemE

Founder and CEO of EqualEngineers, a Fellow of the Energy Institute, and Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor, Inclusive Engineering Leadership @ UCL

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.