Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Royal Academy of Engineering - launch of video series profiling LGBT engineers

The Royal Academy of Engineering, InterEngineering and Mott MacDonald have produced a series of videos profiling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers. On 1st February 2017 I was invited to attend the video launch event on behalf of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM). 

The whole evening was positive, inspiring and exciting. Clearly every individual in the room was proud of the work being done and passionate about positive change. The organisations involved are trailblazers and ahead of the curve. I was bowled over by the courage of all those I met who have a powerful attitude: this is me, accept me as as I am. I am an Engineer. 

We were welcomed warmly by Jenny Young, Head of Diversity at the Royal Academy of Engineering who introduced Lord Browne of Madingley, former CEO of BP. Lord Browne gave an inspiring and informal speech. He talked about his own experiences and said he used to think "being in the closet was a safe thing to do - I spent all my time in the closet until someone pulled me out of it!". He concluded that the process of not coming out creates bad things. The irony of not coming out earlier in his career was that, when he did come out, one of his colleagues said "we all knew you were gay, but no-one knew how to tell you!". Lord Browne highlighted the importance of  "constant vigilance" with regards to equality, using the example of  "inviting all the men going to play golf".

Jenny Young, Head of Diversity, Royal Academy of Engineering

Lord Browne of Madingley

We were addressed by Dr Hayaatun Sillem, Deputy Chief Executive and Diversity and Inclusivity Champion for the Royal Academy of Engineering. Dr Sillem highlighted the importance of role models and praised the report 'Engineering Action: tackling homophobia in engineering' which was presented to MPs in the House of Commons in February 2016.

Dr Mark McBride-Wright, Chair & Co-founder of InterEngineering, the powerful driving force behind the project, gave a heartfelt and warming speech. He praised the 130 engineers that marched with InterEngineering in London Pride 2016 and said that there had been over 500 views of the 'What's It Like?' videos since they went live. He had also received two emails asking about how to tackle homophobia in the workplace. Dr McBride-Wright raised an interesting suggestion around expanding health and safety programmes to include mental health and inclusion. 

Dr Mark McBride-Wright, Chair and Co-founder of InterEngineering

We were finally addressed by Mike Haigh, Managing Director for Mott MacDonald, who raised the issue of skill shortage and stated bluntly that "the reality is, our industry is not seen as being inclusive". He also highlighted the importance of unconscious bias training and praised the individuals that have dedicated time to promote and provide a voice for LGBT colleagues. He finished his speech by saying that he "can't imagine doing anything else other than being an engineer" and "there really is NO BARRIER to joining this profession". 

A resounding theme for the evening was that engineering is a career for everybody. 2018 is the year of the engineer with the launch of Crossrail. The demand for engineers is constantly increasing so the profession cannot afford not to be inclusive. There is a drive to make engineering the number one choice industry for LGBT students. 


The evening was a great success and all the organisations involved should be proud of what they have achieved. I was moved by the videos, the speeches and the wonderful people I met. It was a privilege to represent IPEM and our profession at this event. It was fantastic to hear the support for LGBT role models as this is something IPEM is in the process of doing. IPEM is working hard to become a more equal and diverse organisation and events like this highlight why it's so important. London Pride 2017 is in the diary - who's going to fly the IPEM flag with me?

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