Researchers awarded nearly £600k to boost diversity in Engineering and Physical Sciences

09 August 2018

A consortium of 9 universities and 6 companies has received £591,463 aimed at boosting the representation of women, disabled people, LGBT+, and people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in Engineering and Physical Sciences in the North of England.

Engineering and the Physical Sciences contribute hundreds of billions of pounds to the UK economy each year, but people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, women, LGBT+ and disabled people remain poorly represented across these sectors.

Research reveals women engineers and physical scientists are underrepresented in all grades, especially in senior academic posts. Unequal opportunities, paucity of role models from under-represented groups, and a lack of understanding among senior leaders as to the barriers these groups face all serve to compound and sustain a lack of diversity.

The partnership, led by Durham University, is embarking on an exciting new research project to tackle this issue in the North of England. Researchers hope that creating a more inclusive culture in the sector will lead to a more diverse talent pool and, ultimately, better science and engineering with which to address pressing global challenges.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has generously provided funding for the two-year project, which is part of a wider £5.5m national initiative.

Professor Emma Flynn, Programme Director and Associate Provost at Durham University, said: “Engineering and physical sciences are vital industries. Yet, for too long there have been sections of our society that aren’t represented sufficiently within these sectors.

“This scarcity has serious consequences: not only is it bad for equality; it limits our collective ability to tackle some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing our world today.

“We hope this project, and the activities within it, will make a bold step towards a more inclusive culture in these regional sectors, a more diverse pool of talent and creative minds, and, ultimately, better science and engineering that will benefit us all.”

The project includes six activities – undertaken across the 15 organisations – that are designed to help address the problem of entrenched under-representation. These include:

Shared Characteristic Mentoring: establishing a cross-organisational mentoring programme to match junior staff members from under-represented backgrounds with more senior colleagues who share characteristics, identities, and experiences.

Reverse Mentoring: setting up a programme in which staff from under-represented groups in engineering and physical sciences mentor senior staff about the challenges they face and, in return, are coached on their career development.

Establishing an online networking platform: building an online platform on which academic and non-academic participants within the consortium can advise and support each other and share resources, best practice, and success stories.

Leadership and networking development: collaborating to develop and build on shared leadership and networking opportunities from across the 15 organisations for members of under-represented groups.

Collaboration with industry: identifying good practice within and among the project’s industrial partners, facilitating networking opportunities such as placements and industry visits, and conducting research workshops and outreach activities.

Improved data capture and analysis: auditing different interventions across the nine universities and beyond to identify what works best and creating a rich dataset with to measure success.

A consortium of universities and industrial partner organisations are working together to create a more inclusive culture in Engineering and Physical Sciences in the North of England. The universities involved are: Durham University, Lancaster University, Leeds Beckett University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Teesside University, University of Huddersfield, University of Hull, and University of Leeds. Industrial partner organisations include: Atom Bank, Stanley Black and Decker, GTN Limited, IBM, Northumbrian Water Ltd., and SAGE. The project is generously supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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