Diversity is good for business

06 Mar 2020

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Diversity is good for business

No professional consulting engineering firm can be successful without addressing diversity in the workplace. Here, the chair of FIDIC’s diversity and inclusion committee, Michele Kruger, talks about an issue that is growing in importance across the industry.

FIDIC set up a new diversity and inclusion committee to actively support representation and inclusion from more diverse groups so they can become leaders and influencers in the consulting engineering sector.

Michele Kruger, chair of the FIDIC diversity and inclusion task force, Advisor to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation at Department of Water and Sanitation in South Africa, said: “Our task force aims to actively support representation and inclusion from more diverse groups and support our members by showing why diversity and inclusion matters to business, what the benefits are and the most effective, practical measures to enhance diversity and inclusion.”

The new task force began its work with a completely fresh agenda and stemmed from a number of comments and conversations from the 2018 FIDIC conference in Berlin, said Kruger. “There was a lot of conversations that came out around gender diversity. We’d previously started a movement called Women of FIDIC, but it wasn’t outcomes based, so we decided there was enough interest to warrant setting up a task force dedicated to diversity,” she explained.

“We didn’t want it to be a typical committee, we wanted it to be a fresh team and more agile. The whole point of the group team is not to be gender or religion based – it’s more diversity and inclusion based. If you’re sitting around a boardroom and all the people look exactly the same or are saying the same things, there will be no new ideas. In fact, research shows that the more diverse your team, the better your cashflow and the better your revenue. And, if you take it from that point of view, it means that you can actually grow your business if you look to diversify your team,” said Kruger.

Describing the initial feedback from the committee’s initial work, Kruger said: “There’s a lot of research out there that we are currently collecting, all of which points to multiple benefits of diversity. Most of the benefits are commercial actually and though people often think that diversity will cost them more, in actual fact it will make more money,” she said.

Kruger also stressed that, though people were occasionally slow to grasp the potential of diversity, the positive results for both current and future business prospects, both nationally and globally, are there for all to see. “I’ve already had a negative backlash personally, with some people thinking I’m part of a feminist movement. I’m not. I want companies to do well in a global environment. And, if you are working on an international stage, or even just a national stage, you cannot decide that almost all of your staff must be uniform.

“By being more diverse you’ll have all these amazing points of view – and I’m also talking diversity about age as well. When you’re looking at a team, you have to have young people who aren’t afraid of the fourth industrial revolution, AI, big data, or new technology that will help digitalise and grow your business. So, for me, the more diverse – age, race, gender religion, you name it – get it as diverse as possible and it will help improve your business,” said Kruger. 

Kruger’s passion for diversity has also been evident in her work as part of FIDIC’s Future Leaders Management Certificate, where she is inspiring young professionals around the world with a mix of online and face-to-face seminars.

“Capacity building and helping to develop the talents of young people is a passion of mine,” said Kruger. “It’s been such an honour to train some of the best young engineers around the world,” she said.

A STEM book worth reading

A recently published book by FIDIC diversity and inclusion task force chair, Michele Kruger, The Development of Women and Young Professionals in STEM Careers, is well worth a read and particularly apt for International Women’s Day. The book is co-authored with Hannelie Nel, managing director of Tennelli Industries. An international author and speaker, in 2017 Nel was invited to join the International Women’s Forum, a global organisation of senior businesswomen.

Kruger and Nel’s book works through the fears and ambitions of young people new to STEM careers in the professional environment, encouraging young professionals and women in STEM to know that they are not alone. The book provides key insights into their ability to deal with the stress of developing into a successful professional.

Order The Development of Women and Young Professionals in STEM Careers: Tips and Tricks, by Michele Kruger and Hannelie Nel (CRC Press) from www.routledge.com 



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