Maximising female potential in the workplace

Article By Abbie Sampson

Abbie Sampson, Director of External Affairs at Energy UK, reflects on hosting the first workshop for Energy UK’s new Equality and Diversity Forum last month.

Last month I was proud to host the first workshop run by Energy UK’s new Equality and Diversity Forum.

We were joined by Emma Shute and Jenny Pollock, founders of Women to Work, an organisation inspiring women to achieve their potential through bespoke one-to-one coaching and mentoring schemes, as well as organisation-wide, tailored workshops and women’s development programmes in both the public and private sectors.

Attendees from across the energy industry heard about some of the current research and evidence-base demonstrating why it is so important to maximise female talent in the workplace – studies like McKinsey’s global ‘Women Matter’ research which showed that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT (earnings before interest & tax) increased by 3.5%. Similarly a CIPD study on gender balance in the banking sector found that a 10% increase of women in top management positions, the bank’s return on investment increased by 3%.

However it’s not all just about the bottom line and while the business case is sometimes a great way of making a case for taking action, Women to Work also stressed the importance of linking diversity and inclusion to wider business objectives and strategies. Most importantly they encouraged participants to think about, and develop, the specific reasons  that would resonate within their own organisations and encourage buy-in from senior leaders and colleagues.

Emma and Jenny also clearly set out some of the common barriers within the workplace to women achieving their potential. These ranged from male-dominated cultures to HR polices, women’s own confidence to a lack of female role models, and recruitment processes to internal communications, among other factors.

While it might have been quite depressing to hear about how some of these – often quite simple or unconscious things – can have a significant impact on retaining female talent and women’s progression in the workplace, Women to Work went through a wide range of solutions from mentoring and coaching, internal research and women’s development programmes and networking – and explained which work most effectively to help overcome different barriers.

It was great to hear how some companies in the public and private sector had taken steps to address gender imbalance in the workplace – from organisation as diverse (excuse the pun!) as South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to Lloyds Bank and Pepsico to Chess ICT.

One key take-away point for me was the importance of male support and while our event was equally open to men and women, only one man attended – something I have witnessed at many events of this nature. Women’s equality issues, and enabling your employees to fulfill their potential, is obviously not a women’s-only issue so we will definitely be exploring how we can be more explicit to encouraging male-participation in our events and workshops in this area, to ensure we work together which will be critical for our new Equality and Diversity Forum to achieve the great things we want it to.

On the same day as our workshop, Energy UK also hosted our annual parliamentary reception with Energy Minister Claire Perry giving the keynote speech. I was glad to see her include the importance of diversity in her speech and the need for our sector to go further to continue to build on the progress being made. It was a good reminder to all in the room that this is an issue that is firmly on the Government’s agenda, all the way to the top, and it is upon us all – men and women – to be encouraging positive change in this area.

I’m looking forward to the next meeting of Energy UK’s Equality and Diversity Forum, and you can find out more about how to get involved here.

I’d also like to say a huge thanks to Emma and Jenny front Women to Work for their insights, advice and inspiration – everyone went away from the workshop engerised and armed with practical tips for driving change within their own organisations so the ripple effect will be felt right across the energy sector. Find out more about Women to Work here.

This article was originally posted to LinkedIn Pulse and has been adapted and published here with the permission of Abbie. You can follow Abbie on Twitter @abbie_sampson

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