25 Ways to Be a More Inclusive Engineer

This list developed by the IEE Gender Digital Divide Working Group in support of EQUALS – the global partnership for gender equality in the digital age (Women 2.0 is part of the Leadership Coalition of EQUALS) – highlights several actions any engineer can take on their own or as a complement to their companies existing inclusivity initiatives.

Business Leadership

  1. Be sensitive to the impact of micro-inequities. Pay attention to language and assumptions in daily conversations that may inadvertently reinforce stereotypes. Listen for and correct personality penalties in casual conversation. Interrupt “fixed mindsets” talk by questioning language like “natural talent,” “born leaders,” “not leadership material,” “a leopard doesn’t change its spots,” or “either you’ve got that special something or you don’t.”
  2. Encourage others to apply or ask for a certain position, award, or role. Never underestimate the power of simply encouraging others to take on a project or apply for a position you think they are qualified to do, but do so in ways that does not set people up to fail.
  3. Ensure that the ideas, solutions and approaches of women and men team members are given equal consideration and are not discounted because of gender.Ensure that credit goes to the originator of a good point and not just to whoever talked the longest or the loudest or the person who repeated someone else’s idea.
  4. If you supervise people, be honest and fair in feedback for employees of all genders. Create opportunities to have substantive discussions on performance in private. Do not withhold constructive feedback in the fear of hurting a woman’s feelings – it is ok for people of all genders to be emotional.  Be fair and write reviews of the same length for both the men and women in your team.
  5. Ensure that the administrative (and clean up, if relevant) tasks in your team are equally distributed amongst men and women. Share the load. Set up rotations for tasks like taking minutes and other admin work so these don’t fall mostly to women.

Process and System Leadership

  1. Be inclusive in the products and processes you develop being mindful of their potential differentiated impacts on adults and children of all genders.
  2. Proactively seek to expand and diversify your networks (online and offline). Make a conscious effort to reach out to people, including of a different gender, who are different from you.
  3. Urge and support your organization to sign / align its policies and practices with the Women’s Empowerment Principles and implement the principles within your area of influence.
  4. If you are in procurement, support adoption of equal opportunity/supplier diversity programs.
  5. If you are in a hiring position, ensure diversity both in the candidates’ pool and on the recruitment panel. Explain that you are doing so in order to obtain the benefits of diverse and inclusive teams.
  6. Take up opportunities to mentor and sponsor people of different genders and minorities.
  7. Do not simply remove a woman from an assignment if she is not given her due from a male client or not respected. Help her work through the situation.
  8. Offer speaking opportunities to women and minorities at organizational events. Be sure that these individuals are invited to speak about technical topics, not only about diversity topics.
  9. Implement practices that give everyone a chance to think ahead of time (e.g., send specific questions or ideas for consideration ahead of the meeting).


  1. Look for and take up opportunities to listen to and understand the experiences of others and how they may be different from your own.
  2. Make space for women’s and men’s voices in team meetings, client calls, and in all workplace arenas. Show empathy, listen and resurface points that were raised, but apparently not heard. Call out spaces where women and minorities are absent so they don’t have to do it. ​Make sure all genders are involved in the decision-making process. If quick decisions are made in hallways or offsite locations, check in with those not present, who should be.
  3. Do not interrupt when a female team member is speaking during a meeting any more than you would for a male team member. If you observe this happening, do raise it in the meeting or privately.  Helpful action words – “I’d like to hear XXX finish her thought” or “XXX is the expert on this, let’s hear from her.”
  4. Facilitate group discussion so everyone gets heard and reinforce the ground rule that “there are no bad ideas and stupid questions.” Arrange the seating such that it promotes discussion and exchange.
  5. If you are the person facilitating a meeting, it can be hard to keep track of all the contributions and directions. Invite a partner to be on the lookout for tracking who has spoken, where ideas originate, who wanted to contribute and did not get to, and so on. If you or a colleague feel uncomfortable, find a meeting ally who can support you and help notice and call out subtle biases.
  6. Avoid making assumptions about people because of their gender or family status, including as to their goals, needs, likes and dislikes, ability to travel, and ambition levels. Instead, simply ask them. As a manager, don’t assume everything is fine unless people complain to you. Make sure to proactively check in with your colleagues/team to ask about needs and concerns.

Diversity and Inclusion Leadership

  1. Make executives and others aware of the business case for increasing women and other underrepresented groups’ participation.
  2. Refer clients back to the female colleagues who are leading projects. If a client approaches you instead of the female staff member who actually led the project, steer the client towards her.
  3. Enquire into the gender composition of events at which you are asked to speak.  Encourage greater gender diversity. Decline invitations to speak at events with all-male or homogenous panels. Instead, offer to connect the organizers to female speakers. You can also make a particular effort to invite underrepresented groups to attend an event.
  4. Press your leadership to collect and share data on the state of diversity within the organization.
  5. Take up volunteer opportunities that support inclusion through the content of and participation in the project.


The Switch Editorial Team.

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