William Dryden: Driving Diversity & Inclusion in Engineering | National Grid

Explore the impactful journey of William Dryden, Operational Energy Manager at National Grid, in championing diversity and inclusion within the engineering industry. Learn about his accomplishments, challenges, and insights on improving acceptance.

 

Tell us about your accomplishments to date?

My passion for BDEI is not contained to my protected characteristic, it is driven by what is fair and right. Before going into Engineering I was a secondary maths teacher where I champion girls continuing into STEM at university. After leaving teaching I created ‘STEM Bridge’, this helped girls from minority groups to see STEM degrees and engineering as a possible path.

LGBTQ+ representation in engineering is very low. Where I work, openly LGBTQ+ individuals make up below 1% of 12,000 employees. This low percentage reflects a lack of diversity in the industry and a perceived culture of pervasive intolerance. As the only openly LGBTQ+ manager on shift, and one of very few across the company, I have used my position to drive change, educate and support the development of a culture where we all feel that we belong. My work has frequently challenged the Status-quo and spotlighted homophobic and misogynistic behaviours:

 

    • I have actively dismantled barriers to inclusion by being a visible and vocal ally and role model. This year I will become the first openly gay person to train for and hold the position of ‘Power System Manager’. Meaning I will head one of the shift teams responsible for keeping the lights in in GB.

 

    • Personally driven the creation of the companies first ‘Transition at Work’ policy.

 

    • Worked across the shifts teams to drive a change of culture and embed belonging.

 

    • I won the `Diversity & Inclusion Focus` category at Young Energy Professionals Awards 2023.

In my voluntary role as energy adviser to a small charity, I created a public speaking event, ‘Powered by change’, to raise funds and to raise awareness of diversity in engineering. A diverse panel of LGBT+ speakers from all talking about how they are helping the UK achieved net zero. The event put a spotlight on what can be achieved when we embrace the diversity of thought that come with inclusion. Powered by Change took place under the Gaia art installation, Gaia was being hosted by the Landmark as part of a festival of arts and ideas. The LGBT+ speaker were promoted during the festival on screens; over 16,000 community tickets were claimed over the two weeks of Gaia.  Then a further 300 free tickets were claimed to hear us speak.

 

    • This event raised awareness of diversity in engineering and support for achieving net zero.

 

    • Highlighted LGBT+ engineers leading and innovating across industries.

 

    • Raised funds, but also emphasised the value of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation and collaboration in engineering.

 

What are the barriers in representing many intersectional identity groups?

 

    1. Complexity of Identities: Intersectionality involves the convergence of various social identities (race, gender, sexuality, etc.), making it challenging to accurately represent the nuanced experiences of individuals who belong to multiple marginalised groups.

 

    1. Limited Representation: Historically, mainstream media and cultural narratives have prioritised certain identities over others, leading to underrepresented or misrepresentation of intersectional groups, perpetuating stereotypes and biases.

 

    1. Power Dynamics: Intersectional identities often intersect with systems of power and privilege, making it difficult for those with less societal power to have their experiences accurately portrayed or heard within dominant narratives.

 

    1. Tokenism and Stereotyping: In attempts to represent intersectional identities, there is a risk of reducing complex experiences to simplistic stereotypes or tokenistic portrayals, further marginalising these groups and reinforcing harmful narratives.

 

    1. Lack of Diversity in Creators: The demographics of creators, such as writers, directors, and producers, often do not reflect the diversity of intersectional identities, resulting in limited perspectives and voices shaping media and cultural representations.

 

Do you think acceptance is improving?

The journey that the UK has been on in the last 20 years is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of the British public. Is it perfect, no, but we should not under estimate how far we as a nation have come. Plus we should never forget the amazing, brave and inspiring members of the our community that have given their whole self to drive the change.

 

What does been nominated in your category mean to you?

Being nominated for the Future Leader award means the world to me. It’s a validation of not just my work as an engineer, but also my passion for fostering LGBT+ inclusion. This nomination reaffirms that our efforts toward a more inclusive future are being recognised and valued, motivating me to continue advocating for diversity and equality in all aspects of life. Engineering has a long way to go, but it is moving in the right direction.