Airing our Dirty Laundry - An Open Account of our Inclusion and Diversity Journey

K. Simmonds, B Macdonald (Jacobs New Zealand Ltd)

The Engineering industry, in fact the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field in general, suffers from a lack of diversity. Women are significantly underrepresented in scientific fields in the world, and engineering in New Zealand is no exception. Data shows women make up approximately 20% of engineering graduates, 14% of engineers, 8% of Chartered Engineers, and only 3% of Fellows (

Perhaps more alarming than this low initial representation is that studies show 29% of women leave engineering, largely due to an inflexible work environment and a lack of recognition (Nayda et al, 2017). There is growing evidence that more diverse organisations are generally more successful and effective. This evidence demonstrates that workplace inclusion is more than just the right thing to do, it is a strategic imperative that increases operational performance (Merelo, 2019).

There is a global shortage of STEM and engineering skills that could be mitigated by addressing the lack of diversity in the field. One obvious way to view this problem is by looking at gender. Women make up 50% of the population, but in Engineering the number of female students and professionals is clearly less than this, often around 10 – 25% in many parts of the world. This underrepresentation of women leads us to think about other groups that are underrepresented in Engineering; these include Maori and Pasifika, Asian and other Minority Ethnicities, particularly those from socially deprived backgrounds.

This paper highlights some reasons for lower levels of interest in STEM by females at an early age, and reasons for almost one-third of women leaving the engineering industry. It highlights opportunities to attract women to STEM and ensure the engineering industry is a place women want to continue their careers. This paper also examines a number of approaches to support diversity and inclusion to encourage a greater uptake of engineering by underrepresented groups and to retain people in the sector. Lastly this paper highlights Jacobs journey towards inclusion and diversity – sharing the lessons learned, our trials and triumphs, and opportunities that can be taken to increase diversity in our industry.


464 KB
03 Nov 2022

1530 UPDATED BeckyDirty Laundry.pptx

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09 Nov 2022