I was inspired to set up InterEngineering in 2014 when I realised I did not know any other LGBT+ engineers! A spotlight existed on gender and ethnicity, but there was nothing on sexual orientation and gender identity; they are harder to see by virtue of the fact that they are hidden identities. In response to this, I co-founded InterEngineering, and our success has far surpassed anything I originally expected.
InterEngineering connects, informs and empowers LGBT+ engineers and supporters to foster greater inclusion in engineering. Our vision is to be the leading LGBT+ organisation catalysing change and fostering greater inclusion in engineering by working with engineering companies, institutes, government and the future talent pipeline.
Our mission to promote inclusion has led us to organise discussion events, produce resources for organisations on a journey to inclusion and provide opportunities for LGBT+ engineers to network. We also work with engineering students, aiming to embed a culture of inclusion early on amongst future engineering leaders.
Where are we now?
Fast forward to 2017 and we have over 750 subscribed members and are active in three regional groups: London & the South East, the South West, and the Midlands. In this time, we have grown an active social media community, and our website has become a hub for information on LGBT+ engineering issues.
Through InterEngineering, we provide support and encouragement to engineers who wish to create a grass-roots movement to champion change in their organisation. We also act as an out-sourced LGBT+ network for small to medium sized enterprises, and also for larger engineering employers.
Recently, I was commissioned to write a report for the House of Commons into homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in engineering. This lead to a step-change in InterEngineering’s reputation, and as such, we became recognised as the go-to organisation for LGBT+ engineers.
My vision for InterEngineering is to expand the organisation to establish regional groups across the UK. Our target is to establish up to 12 regional groups by 2020, ensuring that we have a local presence in all main hubs where engineers live, study and work. We also plan to set up a campus ambassador program at UK universities and colleges, promoting engineering as an inclusive profession for LGBT+ engineering students. To achieve these objectives, we have launched an official partnership program, with organisations such as National Grid, Carmichael UK and Thames Tideway joining us.
Addressing the awkwardness
The business benefits for diversity are well-documented. Increased productivity, greater staff retention, improved brand recognition and higher net earnings can all be down to more diverse senior leadership teams. However, sexual orientation and gender identity remains an awkward area in business. People do not know how to start the conversation, and companies do not know how to start their approach. Some organisations have not even recognised the benefits of being proactive on diversity!
Helping organisations navigate this landscape has become a core passion of mine, and I have set up a consultancy to help both individuals and organisations harness the power of diversity and inclusion. I assist them in filtering unconscious bias and practising inclusive leadership, and provide training on how to have a greater personal impact as an individual.
I believe the key for engineering and other high-hazard professions resides within our health and safety programmes. An inclusive culture encourages a positive safety culture in engineering, which is why my training courses have a strong focus on this area. Together, I believe we can have the commitment and capability to create an industry which is accepting of everyone, producing interdependent teams which improve culture onsite, ultimately leading to a reduction in incidents.