Last week, colleagues from Airbus, Atkins, MBDA and Rolls-Royce met to celebrate and champion ethnic diversity in the aerospace industry.

Breaking Boundaries 2022 was focused on the engagement and retention of ethnic monitories in the aerospace industry. Throughout the day, best practices of employer engagement and talent retention of ethnic minorities was highlighted. Open, honest, and insightful conversation was had on actions that champion and promote Diversity and Inclusion.

Guest speaker, Monica Stancu, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Lloyds gave an inspiring keynote focussed on Lloyds’ Inclusion and Diversity Strategy. Monica’s key tips for embedding diversity and inclusion were: follow the data, have a clear plan, fix internal processes and policies – not people, engage stakeholders and promote activity through internal and external communications activity.

In the afternoon, the group of circa 100 people broke out into small groups with the aim of sharing knowledge and generating actionable and shareable ideas. The following topic areas and some key takeaways were:

Diversity in leadership: How can businesses improve representation of ethnic minorities in leadership?

The biggest takeaway was ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, and the conversation was focused on the importance of corporate storytelling and transparency. Organisations must be transparent around the recruitment process for leadership roles as well ensuring ethnic minority leaders are visible to the workforce.

Working environment: How has flexible working impacted organisation’s efforts in promoting inclusivity in the workplace?

The group acknowledged that flexible working had its benefits and drawbacks. Some of the positives included being able to access a bigger recruitment pool, promoting a healthy work life balance and helping to retain talent. Whereas the drawbacks included difficulty in establishing a cultural connection with an organisation as well as individual’s developing organisational networks through chance encounters. One of the ideas generated included organisations establishing a hub-based office system allowing people who work remotely to integrate with other colleagues locally.

Allyship: How can organisation empower active allyship?

While people may roll their eyes at the words ‘mandatory training’, training on how to be an active ally was noted as important. For example, many people want to help others but are often unsure of the right way to without making the person experiencing micro aggressions or outright racism feel inferior. Other methods such as reverse mentorship was also discussed to enable people to establish connections and learn from other’s experiences.

HR practices: How should HR practices adapt to retain talented individuals from an ethnic minority background?

Transparency was again another key topic, with the importance empathised around opportunity for career progression and best practice recruiting such as blind CVs. In addition, some of the group felt it important for the HR function to create an inclusive workforce through the marking of different festivals and cultural events.

Collaboration: How can businesses work collaboratively with its employees from ethnic minority backgrounds to shape DE&I strategies and practices?

The importance of enthusiasm for collaboration with employees was discussed here. Again, transparency was mentioned to foster employees trust and motivation for helping their employer. Internal employee resource groups were referenced as an opportunity to solve business problems and leadership should support and encourage this, and where possible actively incentivise it.

Empowerment: How can organisations empower their ethnic diverse populations to generate tangible feedback to the business?

Organisations must create a safe environment to secure employee feedback. For example, give employees equality in opportunity, create a speak up culture and build employee confidence through organisational culture.

Panel Discussion

The day concluded with a panel discussion with Diversity and Inclusion leaders from Airbus, Atkins, MBDA, Rolls-Royce which largely summarised most of the topics discussed throughout the day. The capture of data around ethnic minority representation in the aerospace industry was considered a challenge but opportunity.

Finally, the day concluded with the panel noting that it was important to celebrate the success of the industry while recognising where there is opportunity to improve.