THE EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) has announced that it is giving a total of £5.5m (US$7m) to 11 projects aiming to address equality, diversity, and inclusion in engineering and the physical sciences.
The funding was provided as part of the Inclusion Matters initiative, the first of its kind, which was launched as part of a collective approach by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The initiative demonstrates how important the UKRI considers equality, diversity, and inclusion in the sector.
The funded projects, based at universities across the UK, for example Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Belfast, aim to identify the barriers to inclusion within engineering and the physical sciences. This will help inform a cultural change that could cause the fields to advance.
According to the 2011–2016 diversity programme report released by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), women made up 8% of professional engineers, and black and ethnic minorities only accounted of 6% of the population. Addressing these and similar disparities could lead to a variety of benefits.
Diversity in workforces helps to increase company profitability, improve customer focus, and promote innovation and discovery. And, beyond the benefits for the companies there are the ethical arguments to consider. Fair treatment regardless of any similarities or differences will allow more people to succeed in their chosen fields to the betterment of society.
Governments around the world have instituted employer-wide policies to prevent discrimination. The 2010 Equality Act, which applies in England, Wales, and Scotland, prohibits the unfair treatment of people on the basis of, age, race, disability, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, religion and beliefs, and marriage and civil partnership.
Engineering bodies themselves, such as RAEng, IChemE, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), are also striving to achieve an inclusive culture, beyond the standards set by the government.
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