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Equal opportunities

How much are white, middle class men really to blame for the lack of representation of women and ethnic minorities in the profession?

My white middle class male colleagues have advised me that they are definitely not to blame. They also expressed (genuine) surprise that our profession has a poor equal opportunities record.

Helen Bradley, 34, principal engineer, Glasgow

Let's face it, few industries positively welcomed women and ethnic minorities to responsible positions did they?

And engineers are not noted for their progressive social thinking!

It is no surprise therefore that civil engineering is one of the slowest to embrace 'alternative employments' as most civilized workplace developments are fought against in our industry longer than in most others.

Chris Johnson, 45, senior structural engineer, Gloucestershire

I am of Hong Kong Chinese origin. I do not think that my colleagues are racist or sexist but the difficulty lies in the culture of decision making and bonding. As Chinese or many other ethnic minorities or women, we do not socialise in pubs or even over tea/coffee, but that is an important occasion for bonding, informal sounding out of decisions etc. On the whole I feel our profession is still mainly merit-based but minorities or women have to work harder to overcome the cultural difficulties.

Dr Andrew Chan, reader, Birmingham

It is not the white middle class men who are to blame - it is the nature of the profession and the status of those who work in it in the eyes of the general public and the clients who ride rough shod over us. What we do not want is positive discrimination/ positive action, which only brands the individual as having received preferential treatment - anyone worth their place will win it on their own merit. Raise the status/pay of the engineer and make it better for all of us.

Edwina Askew, 43, senior group engineer, Surrey

This white middle class, middle aged male has spent too much of his life working in overseas locations, working with local people to ignore anyone because their skin colour does not match mine. I have worked with much less than adequate engineers who were white and male to entertain the sort of prejudice that you infer. Far too many resources are devoted to getting people to do jobs they might prefer not to do, or for which they are not suited. Just open up the equal opportunities and be patient.

JE Gray, 60, land reclamation engineer, Birmingham

White, middle class teachers, male and female, bear some of the blame, because they know too little about the opportunities in the profession.

White middle class, middle aged, male managers do bear some more blame because they (used to? ) perceive women/ ethnic minorities as potentially more trouble to accommodate within their scheme of things than white males. The greatest share of the blame lies with white, working class males, especially on site. They are the most illiberal and reactionary part of the industry. But white, middle class men, like me, were the ones with the capability of changing the balance of opportunites, and I believe we are to blame for failing to do so.

John Evans, 61, senior partner, west of England.

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