Taking steps to diversify SMRP

Stacey McCauley, Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals
Tags: maintenance and reliability

In addition to the predictable theme of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of industrial plants and facilities, last year’s Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals conference in Birmingham, Ala., had a hidden theme – our lack of diversity. Even the comedian who entertained us at the annual banquet went on and on with jokes about the obvious difference in the ratio of men to women at our conference.

Our lack of diversity as a community is anything but funny. I’m pleased to report that the SMRP board of directors has taken its first step to increase diversity within the society by forming the SMRP diversity committee. 

In this article, I hope to help you understand a little more about diversity and what it means to our community and society, and to share with you our initial plans for the diversity committee. I hope to inspire you to get involved.

Diversity and SMRP
While the jokes about diversity at last year’s conference related to our lack of women members, our pursuit of diversity at SMRP goes beyond the traditional definitions of gender, age, race, religion, etc. For SMRP, we must also define diversity based upon job responsibility, industry, geography, educational background, etc.

Just looking around at any SMRP event, anyone can see that the society is, for the most part, comprised of white men in their 40s and 50s who work in their firm’s maintenance organization. Almost all reside in the U.S. or Canada. 

Increasing diversity at SMRP in the traditionally defined areas will add perspective to our community. Women and men, people of varying racial/ethic backgrounds, and people with varying lifestyles view the world differently based upon their experiences. The more diversity we have in the members, the more diversity we’ll enjoy generating ideas, strategies and tactics to serve our community. To a large extent, our lack of diversity in the traditionally defined areas is a reflection of the community we serve. Our effort to attract underrepresented individuals will be incorporated with the collective effort of companies and other societies who are striving to diversify industrial businesses.

Increasing diversity in the other areas – industry, job responsibility, geography, etc. – targets the heart of the SMRP mission. Plant reliability goes beyond maintenance. Design engineers determine the inherent reliability, maintainability and operability of machines and plants, yet they are extremely underrepresented in our society. Arguably, reliability primarily services production or operations, yet production and operations leaders and engineers are equally underrepresented. Reliability ultimately serves our customers, yet marketing and sales pros, apart from those who serve the reliability industry itself, are missing from our ranks. And, despite the proven impact that a firm’s M&R strategy can have on the bottom line, we’ve not attracted many senior managers. As it stands, we are the Society of Maintenance Professionals. We have room to grow.

Likewise, we need to increase the diversity of industries represented. Any organization that depends upon equipment assets to achieve its mission should be interested in SMRP. And, it is our vision to be the global leader in serving the M&R community. To do so, we must reach out beyond the U.S. and Canada.

What does all this mean? Simply stated, if we do a good job of diversifying our membership, we’ll do a better job serving our community. And, SMRP will grow stronger in terms of numbers, and in the quantity and quality of contributed work.

The diversity committee is newly formed, but we have some pretty clear initial goals that we’re pursuing.

Measure diversity: After clearly defining our view of diversity (gender, age, job description, etc.), we’ll measure our current status. It’s important to benchmark our initial state so that we can measure our progress over time.
Develop an SMRP diversity policy: The committee will develop a policy statement for inclusion in the bylaws. It will state our definition of diversity and how we plan to promote, celebrate and enforce diversity within our ranks.

Work with other SMRP committees: The diversity committee will assign a liaison to each functioning directorate and committee to help the committee develop its own diversity policies that align with the general SMRP policy, and to develop plans and tactics for pursing diversity. We hope to help each committee develop its own unique plan for diversity, but also ensure alignment with the general direction of SMRP as a whole.

Reach out: We will reach out to other societies that can either provide SMRP with prospective members that enable us to increase diversity, or with which we should be collectively working because they’re in the same boat as us.
Educate our community: We intend to educate the society about what diversity means to us and why it’s important.

Achieving diversity at SMRP will require a relentless effort. But, the benefits will be significant.

Joining this committee is a great way to get involved with the society in a meaningful way. We need help to get this initiative off the ground. We will hold a kick-off meeting in conjunction with the July 17-19 SMRP executive meeting in Milwaukee. If you’re interested or have questions, contact me at 662-890-9392 or smccauley@noria.com.

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