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Incoming CIBSE President Says Industry Must Prioritise Diversity 

Incoming CIBSE President Says Industry Must Prioritise Diversity 
07 May 2021

The Incoming President of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers spoke at length about the importance of diversity and inclusion in his Presidential Address.

Kevin Kelly, who is also an Emeritus Professor at the Technological University of Dublin, said that a more diverse profession is essential to help us build resilience against future crises and better respond to the pandemic and climate change.

In his view, this positive action to improve inclusivity and diversity within the field of building services engineering is necessary. Kelly outlined his own experience of combatting not just overt discrimination but unconscious bias and stated his commitment to using his presidential term to support positive change:

"To respond adequately to slow-moving change, our organisations need to be more agile than most are at present. We can more easily achieve agility by being inclusive, increasing diversity and promoting equality in our organisations; by giving life to a wider voice representing the wider community and ensuring we have a greater awareness of changes to our environment.

An inclusive organisation is made up of people of different ages, backgrounds, religions, sexual orientation, race, and physical abilities. It seeks to represent the society it is set in. "

He also warned that challenging the status quo will require a willingness “to have the awkward and difficult conversations ahead and lean into them in order to change our industry for the better by making it more inclusive and welcoming to all.”


"We need to lean into the discomfort in order to facilitate change. We need as managers to accept criticism when it comes our way, reflect on it and empower minority ethnic and other groups."

–Kevin Kelly CEng FCIBSE FSLL 

Incoming President, CIBSE


Embracing Discomfort and Difficult Conversations


Kelly also spoke about the importance of underrepresented groups needing allies in senior positions to act as mentors or sponsors:

"It is necessary to provide face time, listen to people’s issues and even risk saying the wrong thing occasionally. We need to lean into the discomfort in order to facilitate change. We need as managers to accept criticism when it comes our way, reflect on it and empower minority ethnic and other groups. 

"CIBSE’s Inclusivity Statement states that an inclusive culture brings resilience, creativity and innovation. CIBSE’s collective goal is to ensure that the organisation, together with the building services engineering profession and community, are welcoming to all, improves our capacity to address the challenges of ongoing change. We need to make this an ongoing conversation in CIBSE and throughout our industry." 

Kevin Kelly succeeds Stuart McPherson as CIBSE President and will be in turn succeeded by Kevin Mitchell, Global Practice Leader - Building Services Engineering - Mott Macdonald.

The Presidential Address was delivered on 6 May via video-link and is available to watch here. 

Picture: a photograph of Kevin Kelly CEng FCIBSE FSLL 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 07 May 2021


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