The power of inclusion: Why EDI is essential for engineering


Better equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practices can help businesses to attract and recruit engineers, retain and progress top talent, and unleash their creativity for more innovative engineering solutions, according to a new report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The EDI engine: Evidencing the business benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in engineering, produced in partnership with Dalberg Advisors, uses data and real-world examples to show how prioritising EDI as a strategic imperative can drive business success in engineering. From attracting top talent and enhancing innovation to reaching broader markets and mitigating risks, embracing diversity and inclusion helps to drive sustainable growth and competitiveness in the engineering industry.

The report draws together compelling evidence, actionable insights and relatable case studies to highlight the vital role EDI plays in the success of engineering businesses, whatever their size. Businesses that advance EDI can open up more access to funding, contracts and partnerships, while mitigating legal and reputational risk.

In addition to a long-standing engineering skills shortage in the UK, the latest figures for 2023 show that the proportion of women working in engineering and technology roles has fallen from 16.5% to 15.7%. This indicates that engineering is not achieving its full economic and social contribution in the UK.

Aleida Rios FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said: “No business needs persuading that fair treatment, participation and opportunity for all employees is important. But many smaller or newer engineering businesses, in particular, may find the prospect of investigating and embedding good EDI practices somewhat daunting and need help to get started. 

“It is motivating to understand how acting on EDI can benefit your business and this report clearly lays out the reasons for prioritising EDI and how to set about successfully embracing it within company culture and operations and reaping the rewards of doing so. Although EDI is a complex and multifaceted endeavour, the report offers practical guidance and actionable recommendations for implementing EDI initiatives in engineering firms. The case for taking action is compelling and undeniable.

“Ultimately, a collective effort is needed to make meaningful progress on EDI in engineering to ensure that it is able to fulfil its potential to benefit society and the economy. This includes contributions of individuals, governments, educational institutions and professional organisations as well as businesses and their partners and stakeholders in the engineering ecosystem.”

The report provides evidence demonstrating the benefits of EDI for engineering businesses across four key areas:

  • People: e.g.82% of women in engineering and construction report that the presence of role models informs their decision to join a company; 81% of engineers consider diversity as an important factor when choosing an employer; 53% of UK engineers surveyed said that feeling included at work increased their motivation – 45% said it improved their performance; across industries, teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report high performance.
  • Products: e.g. In US research, more diverse and inclusive teams had 121% more patent citations than un-diverse teams.
  • Partners: e.g. 78% of global investors surveyed want companies to prioritise Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) improvements, even if it affects their short-term profits.
  • Processes: e.g. In 2022/23 the highest employment tribunal compensation in the UK was £1.77M for a disability-related discrimination case.

It also includes recommendations to support businesses of all sizes to improve performance:

  • Understand your starting point by gathering a range of evidence and data.
  • Collaborate with experts and partners to leverage external resources and expertise.
  • Adopt a leadership-driven, strategic approach that aligns EDI efforts with your company’s broader strategic goals.
  • Tailor initiatives to organisational needs, resources and capabilities.
  • Cultivate a culture that embeds EDI into everyday practices through open communication that celebrates differences and proactively addresses bias and discrimination.

The Royal Academy of Engineering is committed to supporting engineering organisations of all sizes with their EDI journey and this latest report is just one of many activities to provide D&I professionals, CEO’s and leaders with the data, knowledge, and tools to boost equality, diversity, and inclusion across the profession. Through a range of tools such as Culture+ and other support such as the Inclusive Leadership Programme and  Graduate Engineering Engagement programme companies can access tailored resources, expertise, and best practices to advance their EDI efforts effectively.