Careers advice and planning

How you can tell that an employer is truly diverse and inclusive, by BAE Systems

21 Jun 2023, 15:41

Here are BAE Systems’ seven tell-tale signs that what an organisation says about diversity and inclusion translate to genuine commitment.

Four young Cummins staff wearing overalls laughing at work

After the events of 2020, diversity and inclusion is being discussed in the workplace like never before. Inevitably, though, employers’ diversity and inclusion statements can end up sounding very similar. And we don’t blame you if you’re reading them with a critical eye.

Fortunately, there are some ways to discern whether diversity and inclusion is more than just a strapline to an organisation. As such, targetjobs spoke to Alex Gwynne and Natalie Sigona, two members of the diversity and inclusion team at BAE Systems, who suggested seven key indications that a company practises what it preaches. They also shared more details on what BAE Systems is doing.

1. Employees with specific roles in diversity and inclusion

BAE Systems has a central diversity and inclusion team, made up of Natalie, Alex and three other colleagues. There are also diversity and inclusion leads in three of BAE Systems’ UK business sectors – air, maritime and applied intelligence – and diversity champions (who help out alongside their core job ) in all the other UK businesses as well as at BAE Systems’ international businesses.

‘My role involves creating the diversity and inclusion strategy and plan. Essentially, we need to clearly define our north star and how we can get there,’ says Natalie. ‘And then it’s about making sure that, in reality, everybody at BAE Systems experiences the same, inclusive working environment and we fulfil our D&I commitments. I work with our leadership team, the different business sectors and anyone who owns a process, policy or practice to weave diversity and inclusion into our DNA.’

‘I work in the central D&I team as a specialist,’ adds Alex. ‘I focus on partnering with the recruitment, talent and learning and development teams to provide the D&I lens. We want to make sure we attract diverse talent and that there are no inadvertent barriers in the assessment process. We also want to retain our talent and so make sure we have training, development and talent management initiatives that help everyone to be their best.’

2. Established, active and varied employee resource groups

In the UK, BAE Systems has six employee resource groups (ERGs), run by employees for employees and supported by executive leaders:

  • Embrace – supporting cultural and ethnic diversity
  • ENabled UK – supporting BAE Systems’ disabled community
  • GEN – supporting gender equality
  • OutLink UK – supporting gender and sexual diversity
  • VetNet – supporting BAE Systems’ military community (veterans and reservists)
  • MindSet – supporting mental health and wellbeing.

It also has smaller network groups in other areas. Employees can join as many of these groups as they want and can take on leadership or communications roles within the groups, which support their networks and help with personal development too.

‘Each group is given its own budget and they work in alignment with our D&I strategy,’ says Alex. ‘For example, we celebrate national and global days such as International Women’s Day and run an annual inclusion week, which the ERGs get involved in by organising different sessions and workshops for employees to attend. Our inclusion week won a Chairman’s Award, which recognises the efforts and achievements of BAE Systems’ employees, partners and customers.’

Jush Maru is a graduate in the land business at BAE Systems and a member of OutLink. ‘We have a number of colleagues from the LGBTQ+ community within the land business and I am an “ally” – someone people can come to if they want to talk,’ he says. ‘Overall, BAE Systems has a very strong support network. Graduate well-being is taken really seriously.’

3. Commitment to D&I from the top down

‘We make sure that our senior leadership are accountable for diversity and inclusion at BAE Systems. Every leader is asked to commit to getting involved and they are set targets to help us meet our objectives,’ says Alex. ‘For example, they might sponsor an ERG , which involves joining their meetings and ‘lunch and learn’ sessions to listen and understand. Regular dialogue and open channels of communication are crucial so that we can feed back to the people who can make changes happen.’

When assessing future roles for yourself, Natalie recommends getting a feel for how a future line manager might think: ‘Your experience in an organisation is often shaped by your manager. Will they be open to embracing your differences? Will they listen to your ideas? Will you feel comfortable having an open conversation with them? Will they empower you? This can sometimes be hard to determine before starting your job, but if you get the chance to visit the workplace as part of the recruitment process, look at how existing teams interact and especially how managers and senior leaders interact with others. I would always ask a future manager “What is your leadership style? How would your team describe working for you?”, for example’.

At BAE Systems, every effort is made to ensure that line managers reflect the company’s values. In 2020, the company launched a new line manager development programme to set the standards expected of line managers at BAE Systems, supporting them in modelling its company behaviours of adaptability, creativity, collaboration and integrity.

4. A culture of training, development and mentoring

A big part of BAE Systems’ inclusive culture is providing training, development and sponsorship opportunities to create an environment that empowers employees to be their best and be themselves. This includes ‘Developing You’ frameworks to provide the basis for training and development that balances individual career aspirations with business needs; personal development reviews; and ongoing conversations between employees and their managers. The company also has an online intelligent learning portal with more than 400 e-courses and skills programmes to help develop particular capabilities and skills sets. For graduates, this is on top of graduate-specific training, including an immersive induction for new joiners and a Personal Effectiveness training programme, with modules such as leadership and communication skills.

There are also opportunities to work with mentors to further develop careers. Alex adds: ‘As well as informal mentoring opportunities for junior employees at BAE Systems, we are looking at how we can focus support and develop employees who belong to minority groups.’ The company is examining further inclusive leadership training for hiring managers and line managers, too.

5. A long-term focus and transparency about its current progress

In BAE Systems’ graduate intake for 2019/20, 30% of hires were female and 25% were from an ethnic minority background – figures that BAE Systems is looking to build on.

‘We have long-term diversity and inclusion aspirations and year-on-year diversity and inclusion objectives,’ says Natalie. ‘We also work hard to make sure that we have better data to understand our diversity balance and enable us to set bolder aspirations in the future. We know that being more representative of the communities in which we serve and embracing difference in all its forms is not only the right thing to do, but it makes us more innovative and high performing. Ultimately, we want to be recognised as the leading employer in defence and security for valuing diversity.’

6. Challenging itself to achieve external standards and awards

‘One of the models we use to benchmark our D&I efforts is the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion benchmarks,’ says Natalie. ‘This fantastic tool allows organisations to assess progress across 15 categories and determine what is needed to improve. Amongst other commitments, in the UK we’ve set ourselves the challenge of being in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list for LGBT+ inclusive employers, compiled from the Workplace Equality Index, by 2025.’

Alongside this, BAE Systems is a proud signatory of a multitude of pledges and it has joined taskforces to spearhead social mobility, gender equality and mental health initiatives at BAE Systems and in the wider community. These include:

  • the Social Mobility Pledge
  • the Mental Health at Work Commitment
  • the Women in Defence Charter
  • the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter
  • the Valuable 500 commitment to disability inclusion
  • the Armed Forces Covenant.

BAE Systems has received its fair share of recognition for its diversity and inclusion initiatives. In 2019, it won the Diversity in Engineering Award at the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA) Awards. This was followed by recognition by the American Association of People with Disabilities as a 2020 Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion for scoring 100% on the Disability Equality Index. Most recently, it was included in the Human Rights Campaign’s list of 2021 Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality after scoring 100% on the Corporate Equality Index.

7. Efforts to meet more potential employees

The work put into creating a great culture at BAE Systems is matched by the efforts made to attract a wider range of people to join the organisation in the first place. ‘We want to be inclusive inside the organisation as well as targeting a more diverse talent pool. It is important to understand the make-up of our organisation and challenge ourselves in terms of making sure we have enough balance of difference in all its forms. We want to make sure we attract the broadest range and best talent possible – and in order to do this we must be inviting, inclusive and accessible to all,’ says Natalie.

In 2021, BAE Systems is hiring a record number of 1,250 apprentices and graduates in the UK – the highest number it has ever recruited in a single year, despite the ongoing pandemic. By attending events such as targetjobs’ Future Female Engineers for female STEM students at university, it endeavours to meet a wide range of people and encourage them to apply. Its STEM ambassador programme enables over 400 BAE Systems employees to visit schools and inspire young people to consider a career in engineering, and the annual BAE Systems Schools Roadshow visits over 420 schools across the UK.

Meanwhile, through its commitment to the Movement to Work collaboration, BAE Systems delivers 98 placements to young, unemployed people each year and it has encouraged over 40 of its suppliers to participate in the scheme.

If you would like to know more about working at BAE Systems, visit the company’s careers website .

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