It’s an important question and one that every business, and member of society needs to ask: Why is diversity and inclusion important to me?

Firstly, let me define what I mean when I say diversity.  Generally speaking, I think the word means to combine people from different backgrounds, who have different experiences and who are different from the cultural status quo… for want of a better term. Diversity also includes gender diversity.

I believe a diverse workforce brings a lot of value to the workplace and the world we live in.

Surely different cultures, experiences, personal experiences and different ways of looking at, and solving problems are the beauty of a diverse world and workforce.

 “As ours is an industry about problem solving, it stands to reason that thinking differently is of paramount importance… otherwise we’ll just be delivering the same old same old.  And no individual or business will ever thrive in that type of stagnant environment.”

It’s an important question and one that every business, and member of society needs to ask: Why is diversity and inclusion important to me? Firstly, let me define what I mean when I say diversity. Generally speaking, I think the word means to combine people from different backgrounds, who have different experiences and who are different from the cultural status quo… for want of a better term.

Diversity also includes gender diversity. I believe a diverse workforce brings a lot of value to the workplace and the world we live in. Surely different cultures, experiences, personal experiences and different ways of looking at, and solving problems are the beauty of a diverse world and workforce. What can you do to foster diversity in the workforce? It’s a mindset, it’s about having a culture that is open and inclusive, which is based on the understanding that the organisation and those who are part of it will benefit from a diverse workplace rather than having a monoculture that thinks in only one way.

At SMEC, we started the process a few years back when Consult Australia identified an opportunity for us to get involved in the Champions of Change program. From the get-go we were keen to be involved because we wanted to be serious about diversity and our CEO, Hari Poologasundram, really took the reins.

Whilst the results of our diversity initiatives are still coming in (we only started the targeted initiatives in last couple of years) so far our intake of grads in Sydney this year alone was quoted to me as 21 grads of which 9 are female. Considering only 25% of females are graduating in our field, this is an early success. But then of course, it opens the discussion as to why there aren’t more women getting into our industry.

I am always telling the up and coming generations that getting a foot in the door of our industry is actually simple, they just have to give it a go! After all, that’s what engineers are good at. Everyday we get up and have a go, and figure how to solve complex problems, ‘cause that’s what people in the industry love to do. It doesn’t matter about your background, who you are, what you are doing and how you contribute. We look past the gender, the culture, and we look at the person and their skills. Why I care about diversity personally, diversity is something I value and have always sought in the organisation I work for. It’s one of the great things about SMEC.

The organisation was borne out of a diverse background through the Snowy Mountains Engineering Scheme. Our founding project was made up of people of many different nationalities with experience from around the world. The results are obvious: different backgrounds = a different approach and a new way of thinking As ours is an industry about problem-solving, it stands to reason that thinking differently is of paramount importance… otherwise, we’ll just be delivering the same old same old. And no individual or business will ever thrive in that type of stagnant environment. My top five reasons to put diversity and inclusion at the top of your organisation’s people-agenda

1. Diverse teams will perform better – it’s a fact! But don’t take my word for it… read this article.

2. Improved innovation and creativity will become part of the day-to-day.

3. It’ll be easier to hire and retain talent because people (like me and the majority of us) want to work at diverse and inclusive companies.

4. You’ll have a better understanding of your clients (who are themselves diverse in background, location, culture etc.).

5. It’ll boost your employer brand and your personal brand too!

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Author Dan Reeve

General Manager Transport – Dan has been with SMEC for more than 20 years and leads the functional operations of SMEC’s 550 strong Australian Transport Group. Dan is an advocate for gender diversity and actively promotes a more constructive and inclusive culture to improve gender balance within the engineering industry.

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