Understanding Diversity Issues through the Lived Experience of UK Defence Personnel

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Mandy WINTERTON, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom
Etlyn KENNY, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Natalie FISHER, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
Jo DUBERLEY, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Karen NEWELL, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
Siobhan FROST, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
The UK’s demographics are changing and competition for talent is getting fiercer. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) needs to adapt to maintain its employment levels and maximise the benefits of drawing on a wider talent pool. The organisation has long recognised and taken steps to address the challenge in recruiting and retaining people from backgrounds not traditionally associated with Defence, specifically females and Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) personnel. However, numbers relatively remain low.

A large-scale qualitative study is being undertaken to explore the ‘Lived Experience’ of working in MOD of females and BAME personnel. This refers to a person’s first-hand experience in everyday events in their working lives. A timeline interview approach is being used with over 600 personnel across the three Armed Services and Civil Service in the UK. The aim of the study is to better understand the experiences of these individuals (in comparison with the white, male majority) to inform further actions to improve the representation of these minority groups across Defence. The study asks:

  • To what extent does gender and ethnicity influence the Lived Experience of working in MOD?
  • What are the positive aspects of this and how can these be exploited?
  • What are the negative aspects of this and how can these be addressed?
  • How can these findings be interpreted in light of theories/literature on minority representation in organisations?

This is a considerable qualitative study, in terms of its scale and ambition. Before embarking on the main study the method was piloted with 30 participants to assess whether the approach worked effectively across all cohorts and mediums, and mitigating steps have since been taken in the next phase. To date, a number of methodological lessons have been learnt, which we suggest are valuable to garnering sociological insight of use to large scale military organisations.