Includes You founder Cath Strachan covers the diversity pioneer’s unique D&I process
We caught up with Cath Strachan, founder of Includes You to find out her thoughts on the challenge of improving diversity in the engineering industry and how Includes You can improve equality within the recruitment process.
Q. Energy Jobline has researched and composed numerous pieces regarding the diversity issues within the engineering industry. It seems diversity has always been an evident issue, yet disparity levels still remain high. Why do you think the issue of diversity within engineering has and continues to be such a challenge?
I believe diversity issues within the engineering field continue to be a challenge because historically we have viewed engineers stereotypically as relatively ‘dull’ and ‘nerdy’, but in reality it is a very creative industry.
I think that the work of the Women's Engineering Society (WES), WISE Campaign, along with other organizations are creating a more positive message to schools, colleges, and universities. Women are natural problem solvers and consequently, a career in engineering can appeal to their creative side. Further efforts are now needed to emphasise engineering as a viable career choice for women, especially to those that may have missed the opportunity whilst in education.
Q. Recently, diversity in the workplace studies tend to reference retention rates in the engineering industry and how figures are far lower for women. Why do you think this is and what can be done to improve retention rates?
I think retention levels are lower for women in engineering because the overall available opportunities for promotion and development are less. I believe employers have also found it particularly difficult to manage ambition in women that have taken time off to have children.
I feel companies are not doing enough to really encourage women into the industry. Companies are not accepting that skills, training, and experience doesn’t just disappear if women require time off from work. All businesses could do more by having a stronger focus on engagement policies that keep employees interested and feeling valued whilst having time-off from work. I am confident this would improve retention rates and an overall happier workforce.
Q. Can you explain your business Includes You and how it will improve the disparity levels within the engineering industry?
Includes You is a consultancy, offering a process that encourages the best practice to tackle micro inequalities. The process focuses on equality for everyone, not just women. Includes You stands up to scrutiny and is inclusive of all gender, ethnic minorities, religious faith, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Our business model has been tried and tested for over two years now and is endorsed by Powerful Women in Energy. The process focuses on job specific questionnaires, allowing each applicant the same opportunity to answer, in their own time, the questions relevant to the position. The process tackles unconscious bias beyond the removal of disclosing data, and promotes best practice and inclusion for all applicants. We have found candidates are overall encouraged by the fairness of the process and are more likely to then make an application.
The business process is cost effective and simple to integrate for all companies, at any level, and within any sector. We will continue to seek the support from WES, the WISE Campaign, and Powerful Women in Energy to add value to what they are doing as we are determined to integrate this process into as many companies as possible.
Q. Can you describe what made you develop Includes You?
I have worked in Executive recruitment as a headhunter for over 25 years and have heard many excuses for why diversity was not practiced. I have always used a bespoke questionnaire and have found it a good tool for both candidates and clients.
Over the years, I have attended a number of meetings where the topic was diversity, but have seen no changes. I adapted the questionnaire a couple of years ago to remove bias data and offered it to my clients when I conducted searches, and it proved successful.
I felt that if I continued only offering this model to my search clients it limited the reach, so I took the bold move to start Includes You and bring my process to the wider audience.
Although there is excellent work being done to promote the need for diversity in companies, there is not enough support for businesses who really want to change their recruitment process.
I want to emphasise that Includes You is not another informative piece telling businesses what they should be doing. We provide an actual process that can be integrated into a business and be utilised in the recruitment industry at any level. Our simple procedure ensures everyone is getting the same opportunity to express themselves, and put their best efforts into getting the ideal position.
Q. What benefit do you see for businesses and the engineering industry as a whole with using Includes You?
Businesses now have an opportunity to put in place a very simple process that tackles unconscious bias and capture the best talent from the widest diverse pool. Includes You offers the following:
● An inclusive best practice process that stands up to scrutiny and audit.
● A process where all applicants are measured equally, including internal candidates.
● A bespoke job-specific questionnaire that allows less dependency on CVs that provide limited information.
● A robust screening process that will help a business recruit and retain the best candidates.
Q. What benefits do you believe there are to a business by having a more equally diverse workforce?
A company can build a great reputation by being fair and transparent in their recruitment practices. Creating an inclusive culture, and a diverse workforce will drive innovation and creativity. It has been proven that this impacts positively on the financial performance of the business.
Q. The ImechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) recently published a report, highlighting the lack of engineering information in curriculum as a major reason for young people and women considering a career in engineering. What do you think should be changed to improve engineering as viable career option for future generations?
I believe there should be less dependency on the actual CV and more on the skill-set the candidate can bring to a business. Companies often ask for ten-year’s experience in their sector, but when you challenge the requirement, it often comes down to the quality of the experience and not the time a person has spent in their role.
I have also proven that transferable skills in a candidate can bring innovation to a company. Engineering companies should be open-minded and encourage innovation, diversity, and creativity for the next generation of applicants whenever they can.
Q. What do you think businesses should be doing or improving to support more women into the engineering sector?
The engineering sector needs to and should be more supportive of women if they do take time out from the workplace and ensure they continue to feel valued within a business. Employers should encourage retraining of the over 30’s, and encourage a more inclusive work environment.
Cath Strachan, the founder of Includes You will be hosting a series of webinars in February 2018 for businesses operating in the UK and USA. Visit Includes You to find out more about their business aims and how their process could work for your company.