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Why people thrive in an inclusive environment

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Sarah Bakewell

Diversity and Inclusion Manager, AWE

It can be challenging to ensure that your organisation has a robust D&I strategy in place — but doing so is crucial, says Sarah Bakewell, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, AWE.

How does your organisation define ‘diversity and inclusion’?

‘Diversity’ is about the different types of people we work with who could look different, have different viewpoints, and come from different backgrounds and experiences. ‘Inclusion’ is about keeping those people engaged with our organisation and helping them be the best versions of themselves. That’s why our strapline is: ‘An inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.’

Has diversity and inclusion (D&I) become less of a ‘tick box’ exercise for organisations?

Studies show that better gender-balanced and ethnically diverse organisations achieve higher levels of profitability. We certainly need diversity of thought in our work and know that people from different backgrounds come at challenges from different angles. D&I makes business sense — but it’s also the right thing to do. Because why wouldn’t you want people to be included and feel part of your business? A diverse and inclusive company drives engagement and trust and has happier, more productive staff.

What kind of initiatives should companies put in place to drive diversity and inclusion?

For many years, we’ve done lots of outreach work in schools to encourage more women into STEM careers. But diversity isn’t just about gender. We have a D&I strategy board and five different working groups: a gender balance working group; a BAME working group; a disability and neurodiversity working group; a Pride/LGBT+ working group; and a generational working group. This is because we want to ensure that we understand what matters to different groups. It’s important to be innovative and aware that the world is changing. For instance, people want more flexibility these days — so part of ‘inclusion’ is about accommodating different working patterns.

How difficult is it to put diversity and inclusion initiatives in place?

If you work for an organisation that is mainly white and male, it can be a challenge because you live in a bubble where everyone looks like you and thinks like you. This can require a lot of conversation and education. For example, when Fred leaves, it’s easy to think ‘We need another Fred!’ rather than ‘What’s best for my team — and could someone different bring something new to the table?’ It’s important to support busy managers to think differently and adopt inclusive behaviours.

Is the STEM industry following your lead and improving its D&I strategy?

Each company in the sector is different with different cultures, different people and different company values — so it depends on what initiatives work for them. I can only highlight what works for us.  One area of success to highlight is our Disability and Neurodiversity working group who have just won an ENEI (Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion) Neurodiversity award. We have also achieved an ENEI Bronze Award for our overall approach to D&I. At the ceremony it was inspiring to see so many organisations and companies doing lots of great work in the diversity and inclusion space.

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