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OPINION: Spoon-feed the importance of energy diversity to employers

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I recently attended the POWERFul Women 3rd Anniversary event at the House of Lords and it was beyond inspiring. To have the opportunity network with such influential energy diversity leaders, including the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Alex Chisholm, was a significant moment in my career.

As you can imagine, I was desperately hanging onto Mr Chisholm’s every word during his speech. One line that really sung to me and my own views on diversity within energy was:

“I feel as though when I’m addressing the boards, I’m still talking to the men.”

Much of the conversations we hear about gender / energy diversity is relating to the females- great! But what of the leaders expected to diversify? A recent survey conducted by Energy Jobline (which encompasses the views of over 15,000 energy professionals & hiring managers) reveals that only 25% of UK energy employers see ‘targeting the female workforce’ as a solution to the engineering skills gap. Which begs the question: How can we expect employers to hire more women if they don’t yet recognise the value of doing so?

POWERFul Women itself has released some fascinating industry data this year, which should prove as great leigh-way for energy diversity drivers. This includes:

  • Companies ranking in the top diversity quartile are 35% more likely to outperform the bottom quartile.
  • Having one female on the board cuts the risk of going bust by 20%.

One more benefit I have to highlight is the skills shortage. Employers are desperately seeking new means of widening their talent pools and the skills shortage is enormously impacting the growth of energy sectors such as renewables and nuclear. Whilst I agree that we should be targeting aspiring professionals at school and university level, gender diversity should be at the forefront of every single one of these movements.

“Where do we start?”

I completely appreciate why this is the question on every employer’s mind when considering the prospect of diversifying their workforce. There is also a concern that making these kinds of structural changes will require investment. However, this isn’t always the case.

Attracting female talent

Something as simple as changing the way you write your job ads can enormously impact who applies for your roles. I’m not suggesting that you plaster “Females ONLY” all over your job spec- to be clear. It’s a proven statistic that females tend to under-value their expertise. A demanding job ad could prevent you from acquiring talent in any gender group. However, females in particular will shy away from these kinds of adverts.

Appointing females in leadership positions

I disagree with forcing women into the leadership positions, for the sake of doing so. But you must ask yourself if your company and its leaders are encouraging top performing females to apply for top-level vacancies? The most inspiring thing that can be presented to aspiring female professionals, is a female role model. I have been lucky enough to meet and be surrounded by many of these female figures throughout the start of my career. I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that I now have those same aspirations for myself.

Setting goals and monitoring progress

Having clear goals will aid in ensuring improvements to the diverseness of your workforce. Equally, there must be tracking in place to monitor your progress. There are numerous programs and software available to assist with this. But, if you want to keep it cost-free, these calculations can be conducted and recorded with something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. Statistics are what will really make an enormous impact, as they are solidified proof of whether yourself and the leaders you employ are actionizing gender D&I.

(I found this article particularly insightful: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=student)

Sponsoring and/or attending energy diversity events

Having your brand name attached to a top gender diversity event says to the female workforce that you care about bringing more females into the industry, that you want more females to apply for a role at your organization. Diversity campaigners are often deemed as aggressive feminists who want to force the men to move aside and let the girls shine. This is a wrong assumption. In fact, diversity drivers sincerely want male leaders to attend these events. To have energy leaders championing the diversification of the industry is like gold dust to these groups.

To find out more about what your organization can be doing to close the gender gap, visit the POWERFul Women website today at:www.powerfulwomen.org.uk

Opinion by Grace Kimberley, Energy Jobline.

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