Executives from the defence industry give their perspectives on how diversity and inclusion is developing in the male-dominated STEM sector. How much has been achieved?
Head of Integration and Systems Validation, Weapon Systems, MBDA
The importance of D&I
“At MBDA we try to be on the leading edge of technology and solutions so that we can provide the best products to our stakeholders. We need to find the best talent to help us do that. We have to challenge our unconscious biases about where people come from, their education, their gender, sexuality or what they look like. The vital thing is what they can contribute and the value they add to the company.
“This is why at MBDA we have moved to a strengths-based assessment in our recruitment, aiding diversity.
“If everyone in your team thinks the same way and makes the same judgements, then that might create an easier-going environment with less conflict, but it won’t provide the critical thought necessary for improvement. If we deny ourselves the opportunity to make improvements, we leave ourselves vulnerable to doing things in the same way, just because it’s ‘comfortable’. The risk from this is we could end up becoming inefficient and that would put us at a disadvantage.
“By striving to be an inclusive workplace, MBDA can embrace and harness difference and try to create a cohesive workplace where our people feel empowered to challenge decisions, and understand the thought processes behind them. Just because we did something a certain way last time, doesn’t mean it’ll be right this time. We could end up making the wrong decisions, even if the reasons are believed to be right.”
Head of Business Improvement, Weapon Systems, MBDA
“I think that people outside the sector would be surprised if they saw how readily the diversity and inclusion [D&I] initiatives that are happening have been embraced in MBDA, but also across the defence industry and engineering as a whole.
“It’s important for people to be themselves in the workplace and not feel as though they need to leave their humanity at the door. If people are holding a part of themselves back, or fearing prejudice, they won’t be fully present or be able to act instinctively.
“So, from the point of view of having healthy, happy staff — and helping them meet their full potential — it is vital that businesses create an environment where their people can be open about being LGBTQ.
“One mantra that I have when it comes to Pride at MBDA (MBDA’s LGBTQ+ network), is that all of us have the ability to be allies. In MBDA, the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive across the business. I’ve been approached by many people who have said how happy they are that we are growing this network.
“It would be nice to think that sexuality isn’t an issue for anyone these days, and huge strides have been made, but we still have challenges to face.
“It can be easy for businesses to think they’re doing all the right things when it comes to D&I, based on people’s goodwill and the goodwill of the organisation. But we all have blind spots.
“Businesses need to be listening to voices from across the spectrum of diversity. If you have D&I networks, engage with them and use their expertise to shape a set of inclusive policies and demonstrate that you value their contribution.”