Masculinity in Engineering report highlights mental health concerns

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Men 3.5 times more likely than women to have considered suicide or self-harm

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4 October 2019 | 0

One in five engineers have lost a work colleague to suicide, according to a new report from inclusion consultancy EqualEngineers. Men are 3.5 times more likely than women to have considered suicide or self-harm. Across the board, 22.5% of engineers have considered it.   

Of the 875 UK engineers that took part in the Masculinity in Engineering survey, 37.2% described their mental health as fair or poor and 22% have have taken time off work because of it. The report referenced the alarming statistic that male suicide rates in UK construction industry were 3.7 times higher than average.

Still, respondents were far less likely (17% versus 40%) to feel comfortable talking about mental health problems than physical ones.

Diversity

The survey highlighted differing perspectives on diversity in the sector. A third of respondents believe that their workplace is diverse; men are 1.5 times more likely than women to think this. Further, 25% believe diversity programmes discriminate against them, and 15% feel they are threatening. In both cases, men were over 3.7 times more likely than women to align with this belief.

According to a 2018 study, 12.37% of all engineers in the UK are women. Ireland has a similar proportion, 12% of professionals in the industry are women.

Over a quarter (26%) of respondents agreed that their workplace has a masculine culture. Females were twice more likely to agree with this statement than males.

“Engineering is a traditionally male, white dominated sector,” said Mark McBride-Wright, founder and managing director of EqualEngineers. “It can be very lonely, if you feel even a little bit ‘different’ to the supposed ‘norm’.”

All participants agreed that men are under pressure to behave in certain ways, and that society’s expectations of men can be unrealistic. One respondent said that: “Masculinity is a prison and a prize, strictly required of men but still more heavily penalised in women.”

EqualEngineers believes these findings reflect the dangers that a lack of inclusion and mental health supports have on the sector.

“The Masculinity in Engineering Report shows that inclusivity in the workplace is a health and safety issue. Not being able to be open about who you are, because of attitudes and lack of diversity around you can lead to mental health issues and decreased well-being.

“We need to create a culture where men can be vulnerable and can understand their own diversity story. We do not have this in our male-majority industry, and we need to work to bring down the psychological barriers preventing it.”

Recommendations

According to the report’s recommendations, mental well-being programmes that champion physical safety and mental health should be supported; building a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture should be prioritised; and men should be encouraged to highlight the ‘toxic’ in toxic masculinity.

“Men must be emboldened to be able to proudly define their own masculinity, and be reconciled with the idea that masculinity in itself is not negative at all, but that it is specific traits and behaviours, associated with a toxic, hyper-competitive, macho culture that must disappear to make way for healthy, diverse and inclusive work environments for all.”

Read the full Masculinity in Engineering report here

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