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The importance of diversity in engineering

Published: Nov 5, 2019 3 min read

STEM learning

The fact that engineering is a diverse area of work cannot be disputed – engineers work on huge buildings and structures all the way down to the tiniest of electronics, from working with raw materials to manufacturing complex items and from improving things we already make to developing completely new ideas and solutions to human problems. 

With such a diverse range of needs and outcomes, surely there needs to be a diverse range of people being engineers as well? To create such a huge range of products and ideas, we can’t expect everyone doing it to be exactly the same.

On a podcast I was listening to the other day were two women who play rugby for England. One of them said that rugby is the sport where you’ll find the most diverse types of people. Now, it’s safe to say she was talking mostly about physical diversity here - some players are tall, some short, some wide, some slim. But for a rugby team to be successful it needs to be able to do so many different things and you need people of different types to achieve it.

Her comment made me instantly think of engineering, particularly in Tomorrow's Engineers Week. Engineering is a team activity but in this case it’s less about the physical and more focused on the mental. 

Engineering sees people working together to share ideas and come up with a solution to the problem they are working on. Whether that be the best way to use materials, the most efficient way to put something together, or how to use advancements in science to make advancements in engineering. To do this, and to do it really well, there needs to be a diverse range of people getting involved.

Think about all the engineering you use on a daily basis – your smartphone, your laptop, the internet, a ready meal, a chocolate bar, deodorant, clean water, warm house, car, train, winter coat, waterproof shoes – all these things have been engineered. Our daily lives depend on the benefits that engineers have brought us. 

But have you ever used something and thought: “This doesn’t work how I would like it to” or “If I’d made this I would have put it together differently”? If the answer is yes, then this is the reason why engineering needs people from all backgrounds and walks of life, it needs people with all sorts of different life experiences and thought processes. Because it’s that combination of differences that can make the difference between something that is good enough and something that is absolutely brilliant.