An engineer’s approach to opening up diversity, equity & inclusion
Natalie is a graduate EV (Electric Vehicle) project engineer at bp. She talked to us about her involvement in an initiative to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
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I have always enjoyed problem-solving, so it made sense that I was drawn to study Mechanical Engineering at university. While there, I was intrigued by the number and variety of complex problems which need Engineering and came across the global challenge of the energy transition. I became interested in the Energy modules and wrote my dissertation on Renewable Energy storage. This led me to apply to bp and see how I could make an impact in a global oil company transitioning to an integrated energy company.
I have been at bp since January 2020 and now work as a Project Engineer delivering bp’s Electric Vehicle Charging sites. I’ve spent five months working on-site to deliver and closeout bp’s first Fleet Hub site in Park Lane, London. It has been rewarding to apply my Engineering and Projects fundamentals to a completely new challenge for bp.
Connect & reflect
Another reason I was drawn to bp is the culture and the opportunity to make an impact outside my day job. I feel strongly about challenging inequalities and moving the dial on diversity and inclusion. I volunteered to be part of bpWIN, the women’s network, to raise awareness around equality in the workplace.
As part of my work with bpWIN, a fellow graduate and I created and co-host an internal podcast called ‘Connect and reflect’. We interview employees from all levels about their experiences at bp. We’ve interviewed so many different people, from graduates to senior leaders. We have discussed wide-ranging topics such as International Women’s Day, women in engineering, life offshore, and intersectionality.
‘Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.’ It recognises that a person who belongs to more than one of those marginalised groups (e.g. a black lesbian) may experience more intensified discrimination or oppression.
We have also interacted with other BRGs (Business Resource Groups) such as Pride, Accessibility, and the Positively Ethnic Network. It’s been a real pleasure to engage with so many different people who are championing equality and diversity.
Sharing intersectional perspectives
In joining a global company like bp, it was important for me to have the opportunity to work with people all over the world and from all walks of life. The podcast has given me a chance to have conversations about experiences different to my own and apply this to my conversations in day-to-day life. The podcast has spurred me on to want to educate more. I especially want to engage people who maybe aren’t connected to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) space, so that we can grow understanding and empathy for others, and ultimately drive towards a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
Taking an intersectional approach is a key part of this, so that everyone feels like they can and should have a voice in the discussion. As a woman in engineering, I’m often in the minority at work, but I’m aware that being white in the UK, I’m also in the majority. While certain things do impact me, I’m also conscious of my privilege. Everyone has their unique situation and different things that affect them. We must understand and be open to those nuances so we can work together on finding solutions.
One of the best things at bp is that if you find an opportunity you want to pursue, people will give you their time to talk it over, then find a way to make it happen. Whether it’s starting up a podcast or pursuing a new assignment, there are so many doors open at bp. The best advice I’ve ever been given is to push yourself into roles or conversations where you might feel uncomfortable, as this is where you learn the most and can have the greatest impact.
About the Author
Natalie Gilchrist is a graduate EV (Electric Vehicle) project engineer at bp. You can listen to Natalie on this podcast: Allies and Advocates – creating a more diverse STEM workforce (bp Intern Insights).
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