InterEngineering | Dr Mark McBride-Wright On LGBTQ+ In Engineering
In May 2019, Morson hosted the NorthWest Diversity Forum along with Manchester Airport Group (MAG) and Clear Company. The event bought together a number of individuals from organisations like JLL, Shop Direct and Royal London to share key learnings and best practices.
Among the guests was founder of EqualEngineers and InterEngineering, Dr Mark McBridge-Wright, an expert in LGBTQ+ diversity.
We spoke to Mark about setting up InterEngineering and his thoughts on LGBTQ+ issues within the engineering sector:
When did you decide to set up InterEngineering?
I set up EqualEngineers in 2017 to connect inclusive employers with diverse talent and technology.
I used to work as a tech Safety Engineer in industry and in 2013 after I’d finished my PhD, I got interested in diversity and inclusion, but I realised that the conversation around diversity and inclusion was very skewed towards cisgender women in engineering. Being a gay man, I thought there was a need for an organisation that would provide a focus on sexual orientation and gender identity specifically. It’s a hidden identity and it’s something that’s a bit awkward to talk about so I felt like it needed that spotlight.
I set up a professional network called InterEngineering. That organisation is now five years old and we’ve got about 1,000 engineers in our membership. We’re active in five regional groups across the UK, one of which is here in the North West and I have about 20 engineers that support me with the running of the organisation.
What sort of things does InterEngineering do?
We do outreach to schools and speak at universities. We get invited by LGBTQ+ university societies to sit on panels and talk at pride events. That’s where my network of volunteers will give up their time to talk about their career as an engineer and try and encourage them to move into engineering rather than banking or any other highly numerate profession.
What are the biggest challenges facing the engineering sector in terms of diversity?
I think the biggest challenge that the engineering sector faces is overcoming the ‘them and us’ culture that’s so pervasive in all our organisations – the mindset of the majority engineer that thinks there’s some threat from the advancement of underrepresented groups, that they’re going to lose their job potentially or forego a promotion because we need to create more equality. I think we need to get to a place where people realise the business benefits that diversity brings – financial and increased performance – but also on a team level. I think we get caught up in this ‘us and them’ culture and it can stall us in making any progress.
That’s why, cornerstone to how I do my consultancy is linking diversity and inclusion to health, safety and wellbeing, in particular mental health. Helping men be vulnerable in the workplace and women be assertive in the workplace. It’s having the space where we’re not confined to the norms of the gender we are and have a working environment where people can just be themselves. I think to achieve that we need to strategically work at the mental health and wellbeing place and we’re only just starting to do that in engineering.