Diversity Initiatives in Electrical Engineering and Contracting Sectors

Today we have a guest blog from Carl Babb of Relectric on the important topic of diversity.

Electrical engineering is at the core of industrial growth and energy sustainability in the USA. With the innovative products, designs and concepts, electrical engineers and contractors must keep pace with changes in the profession.

Diversity in disciplines like engineering is necessary to address the current and future needs of our nation’s economy. Engaging people from all segments of our society in the electrical engineering profession is essential to this fast-paced and growing field.

Access to opportunities must be enhanced to help meet industry needs and find solutions to society’s energy challenges.

While there has been an increase in the involvement of women, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans in engineering in recent decades, there is still room for improvement.

There are several initiatives by engineering schools and universities, engineering groups and societies, and even many large industries, to increase the diversity in electrical engineering. Like most businesses and companies everywhere, organizations associated with electrical engineering are becoming directly involved in actions targeting bias against underrepresented groups.

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

ASEE declared a Year of Action in Diversity.” Their diversity initiative included plans at multiple levels to promote the pursuit of engineering education among all groups, particularly women and underrepresented demographic groups. The institutions were instructed to remove any remaining form of discrimination or marginalization based on these types of differences.

There were several points in the plan that targeted the increase in diversity as a desirable characteristic of engineering groups throughout the country. Through collaboration with organizations such as NSBE, SHPE, NACME, GEM and more, the vision and definition of diversity were established. The plan also created several measures to track the progress and response of their Year of Action in Diversity.

Some notable actions included the development of strategies to increase the representation of women and minorities in the faculty, development of strong partnerships between engineering schools serving the underrepresented populations and commitment to community college pipeline activities aimed at increasing diversity of engineering students. Many universities also offer scholarships for women and minorities in electrical engineering.

General Motors 

General Motors is a world leader when it comes to recruiting a diverse workforce at all levels. It was named one of the 2015 Top Companies for Executive Women in the U.S.

While the company has diversity initiatives all around the globe, 52% of its business is in North America. The company’s goal to stay competitive and relevant can only be realized with a diverse workforce at every level of the organization.

GM learned that by opening the doors to all sectors of society, companies and organizations can make sure they attract and retain the best talent. General Motors has 12 employee resource groups. These groups are used to represent the members of diversity. Some of the relevant employee resource groups include the GM African-American Network (GMAAN), GM PLUS (People Like US; LGBT), GM Women (Global Group), Native American Cultural Network (NACN), People with Disabilities (PWD) and the Veterans Affinity Group.

General Motors also has 18 women’s councils located across the globe. These councils help promote the personal and professional development of women in the workforce. General Motors among other companies realize the importance of diversity in companies.

Union Electric Contracting Co.

In the past decade, one of the more progressive changes has been the increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the electrical sector. Even though the number is much lower compared to other sectors, the National Association of Women Business Owners estimates this number will continue to grow.

While Union Electric Contracting may not have a large global footprint like General Motors, they serve as a beacon for women leaders and owners in electrical engineering in the U.S.

Alton Walker owned Union Electric Contracting Company since the 1960s. However, in the 1980s, he passed the business to his daughter, Beverly Bortz, who currently serves as the company president along with her daughter, Alison Smith, the executive vice president. Beverly Bortz took over the company at a time when being a woman-owned business was a true anomaly in the electrical sector.

The company applied for and received the certification as a women’s business enterprise in the early 2000s and has been on the cutting edge of women in engineering ever since.

Union Electric shows the inclusion of women and under-represented groups at higher levels has been beneficial to the industry.

NECA

The National Electrical Contractors Association founded the program Women in NECA (WIN) in collaboration with its member companies and organizations. The group aims to strengthen and promote the participation of women in the electrical contracting business throughout the U.S. There are multiple educational and networking events that not only educate the existing women in the industry, but also serve to encourage and attract women to consider careers in the electrical contracting industry.

Through these events and several programs, the women in the electrical contracting industry make connections, empower their technical and organizational skills, move towards leadership positions in the industry and explore their careers by being more productive and efficient. Programs such as WIN help bring young women to careers in the electrical engineering industry and break barriers of this male-dominated workforce.

Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is a huge name when it comes to quality electrical parts and equipment. They started and promote several initiatives to bring people of color, women and other underrepresented demographic groups into the organization. Their Women Entrepreneurship Program has been very successful in motivating young women to join the electrical engineering industry. They participate annually in Innovatech, which focuses on female engineer and engineering students who come to collaborate and innovate together.

Schneider Electric more than 30 diversity and inclusion ambassadors in major countries around the globe that help with initiatives like diversity days, network activities, women leaders’ events, gender workshop for leaders, women in leadership programs and more.

Conclusion

The measure of success from all these diversity initiatives is an increase in diversity in enrollments, retention and graduation rates of engineering students, increased diversity among faculties and in the engineering workforce, and better acceptance of different demographics in the engineering world.

 

Carl Babb is a retired Electrical Engineer from Massachusetts who blogs about the Industry for Relectric.com. He is passionate about Green Energy and Building practices. Now retired he has enjoys writing, spending time with his grandchildren and staying current (pun intended). For more from Carl visit the Relectric Blog.

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