The energy industry is changing rapidly as companies work towards a Net Zero energy supply while also considering Reliability, Affordability, Sustainability, and the impact on daily life.
It’s clear that achieving net zero by 2050 will transform the economy, through creating new sectors and shifting demand for goods, services, and skills. This presents a great opportunity for growth, but diversity and inclusion must be prioritised for talent diversification. Without a clear focus on delivering diversity and inclusion and without actively supporting career development for women, this talent diversification cannot be achieved.
To tackle this, on 14th March 2023, the Women’s Energy Network Alliance (WENA) held their first in-person half-day conference. The theme was ‘Striving to thrive in a transitioning sector’ and was timed to continue the gender diversity conversation after International Women’s Day on the 8th March. The event brought together different sectors, skills, and talent to network, exchange knowledge and embark on a shared mission towards a secure, clean energy future.
Our Senior Business Manager, Luke Munday was invited to co-host a thought-provoking, solutions focused, round table around the topic of Allyship. Intrigued by his insights, we caught up with him to discuss some of his key takeaways.
“I felt privileged to be asked to co-host a round table at the WENA conference, but with it being a women’s event, as a male, I was initially questioning whether I should go. After further thought, and discussion with colleagues, I humbly accepted the offer to co-host the round table, hoping I could play an active role in the discussion and share a male perspective.
The event itself was the most engaging networking conference I’ve ever been to. The energy and passion shown from everyone was incredible to witness. On the round table, and throughout the afternoon, everyone was proactive and there was a constant flow of new ideas being brought forward to tackle the challenges we face.
The day truly encapsulated why Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is so pivotal within the energy space. The sector needs to be reflective of the customer base and their requirements, and a diverse workforce is the best way to be innovative and find solutions.
Despite my initial concerns, I found it quite empowering to be one of the few men in the room, sharing the male voice. The experience and feedback from female attendees, definitely reinforced the need for more males to attend events centred around diversity and gender equality.
Through the round tables and collaborative workshops, very tangible solutions and processes were found. On my round table, we discussed the role of sponsorship and allyship in retaining female talent. There were so many key takeaways and many pieces of discussion which highlighted what more we can do as a sector and as individuals.
The first key take away was that not everyone is necessarily aware of what allyship is. By definition, allyship is the active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it. From the perspective of strengthening female retention and career progression, we touched on how men can do more to influence and assist in this goal. We discussed how this should not be a tick box exercise on the shoulders of the senior leadership team, influence can happen from the ground up too. We can all advocate and actively work towards change regardless of our seniority within a business.
We went on to talk about how EDI should be culturally embedded into businesses and embraced by everyone. With representation at board level, role models and specific examples of success stories. Specific metrics should also be implemented to provide tangible results with meaning behind it. However, unfortunately, work to support EDI is often unpaid and becomes a voluntary commitment or passion project with little to no budget behind it.
This conversation fed into how sponsorship and allyship could support succession planning and development for female talent. Businesses should look to give extra time or income to employees supporting this route, showing their support to individuals actively making a difference. EDI objectives could even become part of employee performance reviews, for example giving evidence of how they have advocated, mentored or sponsored people within the organisation. This could go further to be linked to bonuses - as people are already overworked it is difficult to ask for extra support, but financial incentives may be persuasive.
Another topic of conversation highlighted societal issues. Even from a very young age, toys are gendered and stereotyped, and the (incorrect) perception of STEM subjects is that they are more masculine and not an ideal choice for young girls. Once women overcome these barriers and reach the workforce they are then met with a heavily male dominated environment, lack of inclusion, discrimination and ‘locker room talk’ to name a few. If these women then go on to have children, they face general outdated views of gender roles on childcare. This is a huge issue which disproportionately affects women and is further reinforced by the maternity / paternity leave imbalance, lack of governmental support for affordable childcare and lack of flexible working opportunities. Having said that, flexibility looks different for everyone, it goes beyond childcare and provides a whole host of benefits to employees and business.
There is so much more that I took away from this event, that I will be putting into practice personally and professionally. The insight it provided was truly invaluable and I whole heartedly believe more men should attend events like these. Men in particular tend to avoid female led / EDI events, and I can understand why, not wanting to overstep the mark or perceiving it to be a difficult environment. But the harsh reality is that men still predominately hold the most senior and influential seats within the energy sector and wider STEM. It is important for men to have a voice too, to understand the difficulties and for all genders to work together to bring everyone onto the same page.”