Do you believe that it is harder to have a career in the energy sector as a woman? Why?
It’s difficult to say yes or no without first-hand experience in other industries. Of course, there are some industries where conditions such as working patterns and maternity policies are more favourable for women, especially as primary caregivers, and the energy industry would do well to learn from them and remove some of the barriers to women staying in the industry.
As with many other industries, especially in developed nations, the systems we work in have been established for a long time in a culture that wasn’t necessarily designed for women to flourish but I believe there are now efforts to address this. From my experience, I think the ease/difficulty of a career in energy depends on the team and supervisor you find yourself with. Most organisations have good equality intentions and policies to go with them but their application is dependent on people, who come into the workplace with pre-defined ideas and beliefs depending on their background, upbringing, social circle etc. The most important thing for me was to recognise this, and then focus on what I am in the industry to achieve, leaning on those who support me and setting boundaries with those I have to maintain strictly transactional relationships with to achieve business goals.
What do you believe to be the biggest challenge with regards to diversity/equality in the energy industry?
Whilst there are some great studies out there, there is no industry specific proof that diverse teams perform better than non-diverse teams. I believe that this would incentivise the energy industry to do more to improve the mix of their teams.
What obstacle/s did you come across in your career?
Lack of strategy and self-awareness in my early stage career planning.
What is the most game-changing practice you have come across or heard of that improved equality and diversity in the organisation?
What can men do to help?
Self-educate and be more aware of the challenges women face in the workplace. There is a wealth of knowledge out there. The phrase “walk a mile in my shoes” comes to mind, and this applies for both men and women. I believe that awareness breeds empathy and this will lead to better working relationships.
What can women do?
Be more confident in their skill-set and take ownership of their career development. Identify mentors/coaches and network. Time to do this can be constrained as responsibilities increase at work and home which is why we need to be more strategic about where we invest our time to be as effective as possible in our career planning.
If you could give one piece of advice to young women who are looking to work in the energy industry, what would it be?
I know the biggest priority when you are looking for work, especially at entry level is to “just get a job”. However, if you can, spend time researching the type of organisation/role that aligns with your personal values and abilities. There is a wide range of resources from personality tests and books to help you explore your personal values and abilities. It also helps tremendously to network through professional societies and talk to people in different companies. If you can find an employer aligned to your values and abilities, whilst the working environment won’t always be ideal, you will be able to maintain your authenticity and do well at your core function, in alignment with the company’s strategy. This will allow you to excel and overcome any other negative factors around you.
What do you believe the government can do to empower women and achieve equality in the energy sector (especially in senior positions)?
Legislate positive discrimination where necessary to accelerate change; improve laws on flexible working, statutory maternity/caregiver policies and improve transparency in pay. For the energy industry, the current UK gender pay gap initiative leaves too much room for ambiguity with terms such as “work of equal value”, how is this value quantified?
How much do you feel the situation for women in energy has changed over the last 10 years?
I feel that the situation in energy for women has started to improve through campaigns to facilitate the development and retention of women in the industry. There is still a long way to go but at least the conversation has started, and is also widely supported by non-industry specific campaigns for the betterment of women in the workplace.
What do you do to promote diversity in your career/team/work?
I am part of Fluor’s gender parity initiative GROW (Growing Opportunities for Women) where we promote men and women working together to realise the business benefits of diversity. Whilst at university, I was an ambassador for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s London Engineering Project; taking engineering activities into schools in some of London’s most deprived areas, to inspire young students in STEM subjects and careers