Recruiting women in the utilities sector

Utilities sector, image of powerlines and electric transmission towers

By Debi Bell, Head of HR Services, Lanes Group

Creating opportunities for women in male-dominated industries, like utilities, requires a multifaceted approach to succeed.

Only 17% of employees in the energy and utilities sector identify as female, and almost one-third (29%) are over 55, according to data from the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership. If we can’t attract more women to careers in our industry, we face a shortage of employees in the next two decades.

As the biggest, privately-owned specialist drainage and wastewater company in the UK, we want to lead the way in recruiting more women to the sector. Beyond that, we always want to hire the best person for the job and, if the best person is discouraged from applying for the role in the first place for reasons of their identity, it’s a loss for our company and the industry at large. With these issues considered, we would have fewer people to choose from, and we aren’t able to benefit from a broader diversity of ideas and perspectives, so it’s vital that we all work to address this recruiting shortfall.

A corporate culture that welcomes women

At Lanes Group, it has always been a priority to develop a culture where everyone is supported, uplifted, and assessed on the quality of their work, not on their gender or any other aspect of their identity. To facilitate this, we developed an award-winning employee wellbeing app, through which our employees can report how they’re feeling before they start each shift. If they’re unhappy, they can contact our dedicated wellbeing practitioner, Kelly Hansford, for help and support.

Whether it’s a work-related issue or a personal concern, we’ve found that looking after our employees’ wellbeing and resolving conflicts quickly when they arise have greatly improved retention and recruitment rates.

Opening this channel has improved communication within teams and silos, and across the whole company, which has also helped to foster a positive, supportive work environment. Good communication between team members creates a sense of support and belonging, which can overcome the feelings of isolation you might experience if you’re the only woman in an all-male team. This environment helps women to feel empowered to do their jobs, able to ask for help when needed, and comfortable to go beyond their comfort zones with extra training or leadership roles.

We’ve taken further steps that might encourage more women to apply, like offering flexible shift patterns to help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance. We provide training and career advancement opportunities that help retention and encourage employees to view their job as a career. We also offer competitive salaries, taking steps to address the gender pay gap.

Changing perspectives on women in utilities

Lanes has continued to foster an environment that enables female employees to flourish. However, this doesn’t necessarily attract new talent to the industry.

The perception that women are welcomed in the utilities sector is as important as the practical changes companies are making to improve equality across their recruitment drives. The industry as a whole needs to highlight the work that is being done, and clearly communicate strategies that are in place to ensure staff members are judged only on their skills and their performance, not on their identity.

Giving women prominent positions as mentors and role models can really help, because greater visibility of women in the industry is one of the primary ways we can challenge the stereotype that these jobs are best suited to men.

It can be discouraging to apply for a job where every member of the senior management team is male, because it can suggest that career advancement may be limited for any applicant who identifies as a woman. Advertising the opportunity for women within your company to train, advance, and build a career is vital to attracting the best possible talent to every position you’re recruiting.

Many of the suggestions here can help to attract employees of any gender to apply, and encourage them to think of their role on your team as one of the first steps on their career ladder. You should also make sure to ask the women who make up your workforce what they think; gaining first-hand advice and experiences from your staff can provide insights and ideas you might not have thought of yet.

No matter what your background may be, we are committed to supporting everyone with the right skills and attitudes to achieve success. We do our best to make that clear to all prospective employees, and to live up to that promise through our commitment to fostering an environment that supports and uplifts every member of our team, no matter their identity