New Engineering Formula: Diversity Equals Innovation

Published 12:06 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

(NewsUSA) – Today, many companies are discovering that increased diversity in the workplace contributes to product innovation, global competence and other successful corporate outcomes.

Some technology-based companies, particularly those with extensive product lines and global reach, are actively recruiting women and other under-represented groups for engineering

positions. They recognize that a gender mix in research and development programs and on project design teams oftentimes fosters openness, engagement, creativity and new ways to approach problems.

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“Engineers today are required to be multicultural in their outlook and perspective,” notes Thomas Loughlin, executive director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). “Our profession is far more interdependent and collaborative than ever before.”

An increasing number of companies are making a case for diversity in the workplace. At companies like DuPont, 3M and Siemens, diversity is an organizational imperative — a core business strategy that’s implemented to generate new ideas, grow business units and drive innovation. Global companies use diversity to understand cultural differences and effectively reach new markets and customers. Firms hire and train engineers to interact effectively with customers, partners, and suppliers spread across the globe.

Diverse work teams also allow companies to forge affinities with consumers to better understand customer preferences, expectations and comfort levels. Female engineers are an invaluable resource when it comes to designing products for women.

Volvo assembled an all-female design team to conceptualize the interior features of a car that might appeal to women, a group representing 54 percent of new car purchases at the Swedish automaker. The team set out to design a softer and simpler concept car that would enhance the driving experience for women. Among other design innovations was a headrest that angled in such a way to accommodate ponytails.

ASME is an essential partner and resource for advancing diversity and inclusion in the engineering workforce. Among other activities, the Society sponsors the Diversity Action Grants program, which directs funds to student sections to assist minority-owned businesses to solve design problems. The student sections also use Diversity Action Grants to sponsor programs in K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

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