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Celebrating Pride at Dyson

As Pride celebrations take flight around the world, we shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community at Dyson in an interview with members of Dyson’s employee-led PROUD network.  

Dyson Pride 2021

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Great minds don’t think alike. And it takes all kinds of minds to make Dyson machines so unique. Throughout history, the engineers and scientists who have embraced different and new ways of thinking have been able to make pioneering breakthroughs in their field. In fact, true innovation only comes from radically reinventing what has come before, engaging with different points of view and finding new ways to solve problems.

 

Engineers are the world’s problem solvers, but we continue to face a global shortfall of engineers. Failing to address this problem is expected to cost the UK economy alone £27 billion every year and will stall vital innovation that might solve the global problems that we face today. Despite this urgent need for engineering talent, research suggests that the LGTBQ+ community is often underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 28 per cent of LGBTQ+ people have at some point considered leaving their jobs in STEM because of a hostile workplace or discrimination towards them[1], an estimated 20 per cent of trans people have often considered leaving the industry[2] and gay and bisexual students are less likely to follow an academic career in science, engineering and technology[3] in the first place.

 

At Dyson, we’re proud to celebrate those who think differently, come from all backgrounds and are true to themselves.

 

Every year, Dyson people around the world attend and support Pride Events local to their communities through our internal PROUD Network. While Pride parades might look different this year, Dyson continues to support Bristol and Chicago Pride, amongst many other global events.

 

This Pride Month, we shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community at Dyson in an interview with some of the members of Dyson’s employee-led global PROUD network – Sammantha Harris, Chris Holgate and Dan Tinsley.

  • Samantha Harris, Dyson employee

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  • Sammantha Harris

    Senior Compliance and Approvals Regulatory Specialist

     

    Sammantha has worked at Dyson for almost seven years. Her day-to-day involves determining the applicable laws and regulations that apply to Dyson machines in the markets in which they’re sold around the world, which informs the design of some of our technology. She has worked on a range of products, including the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, the Dyson Airwrap styler, and most recently the laser detect technology on the Dyson V15 Detect cord-free vacuum.

     

    Sammantha studied Product Design Engineering at Brunel University, UK. Outside of work, she sits on an international committee that works to ensure that women are considered in safety regulations around the world. Examples of their work includes looking at how to ensure seatbelt design and crash test regulations take into consideration women's bodies and physiology.

     

    What challenges do the LGBTQ+ community face in engineering?

    Engineering can still be a hard place to be especially as a woman, let alone when you add being LGBTQ+ on top of that. In some workplaces, there can still be a “boys club” attitude, and in my view every initiative to move away from that culture is a step in the right direction towards more inclusivity and innovation.

“Engineering can still be a hard place to be especially as a woman and let alone when you add being LGBTQ+ on top of that… but its far better now for the LGBTQ+ community than it was even ten years ago.”

Sammantha Harris, Senior Compliance and Approvals Regulatory Specialist

I transitioned at Dyson almost five years ago now. Before you come out you never know how it's going to go, and at the time there was no guide internally to follow. Based on my own experience, I worked with the HR team at Dyson for almost a year to work out exactly how to do it and how we'd change over all the systems to support those transitioning at Dyson. We now have strong internal policies and guidance to support people transitioning and we continue to evolve these. 

 

What inspired you to become an engineer?

As a child, I could often be found tinkering with things around the house and I had great female role models in my science and maths teachers at school. However, I think I still had more opportunities to get into engineering than I would have if I had grown up being seen as a girl. I feel I had a lot more leeway in that I wasn't shamed as much by classmates for my “geeky” or technical interests.

 

What inspires you about engineering and “problem solving”?

Knowing that there is always a solution to an issue is really motivating. You might fail to find it at first or even after several attempts but usually something elegant emerges, or you go back and have to think about it from a completely different angle. As an engineer, you can't be afraid of failing a few times, just as long as you're learning from the attempts.

 

What inspired you to join and help run the Dyson LGBTQ+ Employee Network? What are some of the initiatives you’ve driven?

I actually got into it accidentally! I started organising panel talks and events in 2018 and really enjoyed it and have now been officially helping to run the global network since the beginning of 2019.

 

I've mainly driven awareness pieces, visual identity and policies for the network, which has been a great creative outlet alongside my day-to-day role. I was also responsible for co-developing the current Gender Identity and Expression Policy, which was launched to coincide with Trans Day of Visibility last year, so that anyone who transitions has a framework to help guide them and their manager.

 

What would you say to young people from the LGBTQ+ community considering a career in engineering?

There's a statistic in the UK that one in three workplaces would be unlikely to consider hiring a trans candidate and, more specifically, only 25 per cent of engineering firms are agreeable to the idea.

Engineering as an industry is far better now for the LGBTQ+ community than it was even ten years ago. Companies are really starting to realise that they need diverse talent to be able to design and develop the best products and come up with the best solutions. I've seen things moving away from the “one-size-fits-all” environment that we used to see, and there are also many more LGBTQ+ based engineering organisations, such as InterEngineering that look to support LGBTQ+ engineers.

  • Chris Holgate

    Senior Mechanical Engineer, Floorcare

     

    Chris is a Senior Mechanical Engineer responsible for a range of mechanical and thermodynamic design solutions in Dyson’s floorcare products over the years. He oversaw the testing and validation of the Dyson Omni-glide cord-free vacuum cleaner’s unique 360-degree caster wheel design and developed new test methods to account for the cleanerhead’s omni-directional cleaning capabilities.

     

    Chris joined Dyson in 2013 as an engineering graduate in Aerospace Design from the University of the West of England, Bristol, having also interned at Rolls-Royce working on the EJ200 Eurofighter Typhoon turbojet engine.

  • Chris Holgate, Dyson employee

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  • “I can honestly say that there has never been a better and more inclusive time to pursue a role in engineering for LGBTQ+ individuals.”

    Chris Holgate, Senior Mechanical Engineer

    Chris is a co-founder of Dyson’s PROUD Network. At home, he can be found using his 3D printer to design gadgets and robots in his spare time.

     

    What inspires you about engineering and “problem solving”?

    Like most engineers, I aspire to improve our world in some way, no matter how small. Knowing I have perhaps helped someone somewhere make their home that little bit cleaner and brought a little joy to their lives is very inspiring!

     

    Ever since I was young, I’ve always loved taking things apart to see how they work; improving and putting them back together. I always knew I wanted to do engineering; the hard part was deciding which type. I’ve always had a love of sci-fi so ended up studying Aerospace but now have opportunity to work on technologies that impact people’s day-to-day lives.

     

    What challenges do the LGBTQ+ community face in engineering/the workplace? / What are some challenges you have faced as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

    It’s well known that the engineering industry is male dominated, which can bring with it some ingrained “traditional” views towards masculinity, and sometimes an aversion to anything that differs from that norm. This presents unique challenges to both women and LGBTQ+ persons alike in the industry as they often feel a need to fit in with this masculine culture, causing them to suppress their natural personalities, which hamper overall morale, productivity and creativity. However, in my personal experience many engineers tend to be very open-minded individuals who often embrace change and new ways of thinking, and that’s certainly been my experience at Dyson.

     

    What inspired you to co-found the Dyson LGBTQ+ Employee Network? What are some of the initiatives you’ve driven?

    About six years ago, I sat down with a fellow colleague one day for a coffee and we realised there wasn’t an established LGBTQ+ support network within Dyson. So, we went about starting one from scratch! We’ve seen a huge cultural shift in recent years both around the world and within Dyson that has helped now bring the global PROUD Network to the forefront of diversity and inclusion endeavours. Over the years, we’ve supported to create new policies and implement unconscious bias training – all the while trying to promote Dyson as an equal-opportunities employer.

     

    What would you say to young people from the LGBTQ+ community considering a career in engineering?

    Even in the few years I have been in engineering, I have witnessed some monumental shifts in attitudes to diversity and inclusion for the better. There is a huge amount of national and international support for LGBTQ+ persons in engineering, while most of my experience has only been at Dyson, I can honestly say that there has never been a better and more inclusive time to pursue a role in engineering for LGBTQ+ individuals – we hope that our network will continue to push positive change both within and outside of Dyson!

  • Dan Tinsley, Dyson employee

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  • Dan Tinsley

    Global Head of Cyber Defence

     

    Dan has worked at Dyson for 18 months and leads Dyson’s Global Cyber Fusion team which is tasked with protecting the Dyson digital ecosystem and ensuring the cyber resilience of our business. The defence team are embedded across all Dyson products and technologies, supporting everything from safeguarding our connected technologies to monitoring our digital platforms.

     

    Dan started his career working in network engineering before the concept of cyber security was even in the mainstream. He was inspired to pursue a career in engineering and cyber defence because at the core, engineering is about finding solutions to problems and security is about ensuring trust in that solution. Blending these concepts together enables teams to work together to build resilient products.

     

    Before joining Dyson, Dan spent his career split between global banking and fighting cybercrime. Outside of work, he enjoys hiking, drumming and Brazilian Jujitsu.

     

    What inspires you about engineering and technology and “problem solving”?

    Owners expect privacy as our lives merge between the physical and digital world. As technologists and engineers, we must earn this trust through designing secure solutions while maintaining ease of use and protection that is transparent to our owners around the world.

“The freedom to express and be true to oneself allows amazing ideas to thrive and creativity to flourish. Without that, we place artificial limitations on our own excellence.”

Dan Tinsley, Global Head of Cyber Defence

What challenges do the LGBTQ+ community face in engineering and the workplace?

As a global leader, I am a driven to create an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse communities as someone who is Dyslexic myself. I passionately believe that to build world class teams, diversity must be at the heart of what we practice and challenging unconscious bias that may restrict career opportunities for people in minority groups is crucial. The freedom to express and be true to oneself allows amazing ideas to thrive and creativity to flourish. Without that, we place artificial limitations on our own excellence which I have personally experienced.

 

What inspired you to join the Dyson LGBTQ+ Employee Network? What are some of the initiatives you’ve driven or taken part in?

Leading the Global Cyber Defence team from Asia, I aim to bridge our LGBTQ+ communities and support our team members to feel empowered to express themselves authentically in the workplace.

 

What would you say to young people from the LGBTQ+ community considering a career in engineering or technology?

Jump in. Globally, engineering and technology tend to have low representation of LGBTQ+ people, both for personal and social reasons. To solve the diverse challenges we face in building a secure digital ecosystem, we need people from all backgrounds to influence the future of engineering and technology.

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