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Increase inclusiveness to retain talent, firms told

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Civil engineering firms will need to improve the inclusiveness of their cultures if they want to attract a diverse pool of talent, according to Indigo& chief executive Elspeth Finch.

Finch, who used to be innovation director at Atkins, warned engineering firms that a few brilliant women at senior levels did not automatically filter down into a diverse workforce. She added that the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) engineering graduates that were being lost from the sector was too high and without more inclusive cultures this won’t be rectified. She was speaking at the NCE100 Breakfast Club: Engineering Equality event.

“We still are losing so much talent…there are brilliant examples but there are not enough. So are we creating the inclusive cultures?” she said.

Finch cited her early days as an engineer when she was often the only female engineer in a meeting, with emails addressed “Dear gentlemen and Elspeth”.

“These were just little mosquito bites and they don’t mean a lot individually, but collectively they make you feel less welcome,” she said.

Finch said her own firm was trying to build an inclusive firm from the start, including taking advice to ensure that they’re not holding on to their own retained bias.

“We’re trying to build an inclusive culture from scratch. There’s no template,” she said.

This work includes rethinking recruitment planning. She also said it also encompassed more subtle things, such as women tend to use ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ when talking about their work.

“It’s something which really annoys me. One of the things we keep talking about is the need for authentic leaders, for people to be themselves who people can then want to follow. Well, how can you be an authentic leader as a woman if you’re then told not to be yourself?”

Finch said she has been told not to say ‘we’, but that was her natural characteristic and it shouldn’t diminish people’s perception of her as a leader.

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