“Listen, love, why don’t you give me your boss’s email and I can send him a message explaining this”
That was a comment made to a contact of mine recently at an exhibition. Never mind that her boss is a woman, nor that she would be more than capable of understanding the technology herself.
Was it intentionally sexist? Probably not. Should the chap in question know better? I think so. Does the renewables industry put people off? Sometimes. I have discussed this question with my network and the comments aren’t new but the reality is there isn’t a gender balance in the renewables industry. Particularly when it comes to technical and engineering roles.
So what can we do?
1. Start young – if we’re talking about how to recruit more women, then the conversation is happening a little late. There is a role here for schools, parents, communities and siblings before girls get turned off technical career paths by well-meaning but not helpful peers, teachers or relatives. But there’s a role for the low carbon energy and transport industries too.
2. Show people how exciting our industry is – we’re on the cusp of the biggest transition we’ve seen in power and transport than we’ve seen before. Everything is changing, we’re decarbonising the system but even if you don’t care about climate change (I know, what?!) the technology is cool. Decentralised generation, smarter systems, more data, more services for customers: blockchain, IOT, energy storage, low carbon vehicles, smart meters… the list goes on and on! This is a vibrant, exciting and meaningful industry.
3. A conversation about women’s skills versus men’s skills misses the point entirely– not all women are good at so called “softer skills” not all men are born technical wizards. It’s about building a plan for the kind of company you need in the future and using diversity of gender, age, race and socioeconomic background to cover the skills gap that you need.
4. We – the women already in the industry – are not always supportive of others–shocking but true. When was the last time you gave someone a leg-up? Business has become more competitive these days but there is room to be a strong woman in the industry and lift others up (you could lift some men up too). Aaaand, do you know the right person in your business to push this with? If you’re not an HR/hiring manager, then you need to ask them what they’re doing to plan for a diverse future.
5. Men are an essential part of the conversation – and I’ve been so impressed to see how many take an active role in these panel discussions because they know how important it is to have the best talent in their business and – most importantly – retain and motivate them.
6. We all need a good mentor – sometimes that’s someone else amazing, sometimes it’s you, I’m afraid.
7. Sometimes family or life outside work has to take precedence – for men and for women and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. As long as you generally put the best bits of your professional self into your work.
8. Draw boundaries – sometimes you will have to say “that’s not my job” or “can youmake some tea (for a change)”. Demonstrate that your skills lie elsewhere and aren’t where people are expecting them to lie, purely based on their perceptions of your gender.
9. The road is long – this isn’t something we can change overnight but this issue is picking up momentum at the moment.
10. The road is long but it’s full of opportunity – for us as employees, for employers and to decarbonise energy and transport, or at the very least to play with some cool tech.
I want to hear from you! What have your experiences been and what tips would you have for women in your network?