Equality, diversity and inclusion expert Prof Mustafa Ozbilgin has a leading role in a new £1.25 million government drive to right the lack of diversity in UK energy research.
Despite a decade of diversity campaigns, research shows academia openly and quietly discriminates against people from underrepresented groups, and the problem is worse in science and engineering.
The four-year IGNITE Network+ (Innovation and Growth Needs Inclusion and engagement of all Talent in Energy) aims to level the playing field in a bid to speed the UK’s move to greener energy.
“This is very important for getting the energy workforce both in universities and in private, public and voluntary sectors to refocus on promoting equality, diversity and inclusion,” said Brunel Business School’s Prof Ozbilgin.
The network aims to flag up barriers along the energy researcher career path and challenge inbuilt inequities at all stages, and put in support to help researchers from different backgrounds succeed and stick at it.
Led by the University of Strathclyde and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), IGNITE also includes Imperial College London, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, the University of Bristol and Queen’s University Belfast. Together they aim to build a multi-disciplinary community of energy researchers based on equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI) and accessibility.
While people are now more aware of the value of EDI, UK engineering, in particular, has some of the poorest diversity statistics in Europe. Eight per cent of professional engineers are female and six per cent are black and minority ethnic.
“The energy sector has potential to capture best talent in the UK,” said Prof Ozbilgin. “For this to happen, the sector needs to co-design its institutional environment to make it fit for a more diverse workforce in more inclusive ways. Some inequalities are historically and institutionally entrenched. Those need to be addressed with systems change.”