2 May 2024

According to a recent report by WUN – Womens Utilities Network, in collaboration with The Marketing Pod, 50.1% of women in the utilities sector feel they are treated differently because of their gender, and almost a third are thinking of leaving the industry as a result.

Fostering inclusion and diversity

The WUN report highlights the role of unconscious bias, and how assumptions about women can negatively impact their career progression.

So, what can be done to make the energy and utilities sector a more inclusive place to work?

Xoserve gathered a group of industry stakeholders to find out.


Bringing your whole self to work

When asked what advice they would give to their younger selves, our stakeholders – most of whom are women – seemed to agree: don’t dim your light to fit in. Several stressed the importance of not necessarily conforming to what one might think will be acceptable in the corporate and male-dominated energy industry.

Instead, accept that everyone’s perspective and personality will bring something different and enriching to the industry, and don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. For example, someone with a very bubbly personality might think this is out of place in such a ‘serious’ industry, when actually it could be massively helpful in networking and stakeholder engagement.

Another theme that emerged is the importance of not being overwhelmed by the complexity of the industry, and not being afraid of asking questions when needed.

Both points can be summed up under the wider umbrella of allowing energy and utilities professionals to bring their whole selves to work. By creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace, firms within the industry can empower employees to showcase the entirety of their skills and personalities – as well as their insecurities or vulnerabilities. This will allow new recruits to bring different perspectives and skill sets, empowering them to become real assets for the industry.


Saying 'yes' to new opportunities

When discussing opportunities for professionals joining the industry now, our stakeholders stressed the importance of having the confidence to grab new opportunities – regardless of one’s gender, title or other factors.

According to some of them, it’s essential that new recruits believe in their capabilities and in the intrinsic value they bring to the industry. In this way, they will be far more likely to say 'yes' to new roles that could open the doors to a very rewarding career.

Some also highlighted the need to be open to change, and to the possibility of trying out roles one might not have necessarily considered. The energy and utilities industry is a vast and multifaceted sector, and opportunities for career growth can sometimes come in ways we might not have necessarily expected or predicted.


What we’re doing at Xoserve

The stakeholder group included our CEO, Steve Brittan, who explained what the main priorities are to improve inclusion and diversity within Xoserve.

“We must keep impressing upon everyone that we welcome people from all backgrounds to come and join us,” he commented. “I’m a gay man myself and there aren’t many gay people who are in CEO roles within this industry. [...] The second thing is flexibility, today we operate in a far more flexible way in terms of how people work with us.”

Recognising that different work patterns might work best for different people, Steve is striving to continuously offer new ways for employees to contribute to the success of Xoserve. Flexible and hybrid working, together with a genuinely inclusive work culture, at the heart of Xoserve’s equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) agenda.

This also extends to recruitment, which has recently introduced anonymous CVs as a standard practice to minimise the possibility that unconscious bias could impact candidates’ chances to join us.


Waving the magic wand

When asked what they would do if they had a magic wand that could improve inclusion and diversity in the industry, our stakeholders emphasised the importance of removing bias.

“I would wipe any biases, eliminate all the tags that we attach to people,” said Ayena Gupta, Head of DCC Oversight & Regulatory Review.

Victoria Mustard, former Decarbonisation Strategy Lead at Xoserve, added that the problem is even bigger with unconscious bias – when people don’t realise their preconceptions. “If I could wave my magic wand I would enable everyone to understand what their unconscious bias is, make it a conscious bias, and then you can do something about it.”

She also added that she was shocked by the impact of removing people’s names from the CVs that arrived at Xoserve – something that shows how unconscious bias was negatively impacting recruitment.

Others reported that allyship needs to be stronger, and that those who have the power to speak up and drive change should do so. On the other hand, there was a word of warning against mentorship programmes aimed at women. It was mentioned that these could nurture an assumption that women need to be continuously coached, as well as load even more responsibilities onto women who are already working very hard to smash the glass ceiling.

But diversity and inclusion is not just a gender problem – race, class and other identity markers also need to be considered. Moreover, ED&I initiatives shouldn’t be limited to the workplace, but should extend to policy considerations that affect the wider public. This is where Victoria Mustard would use her second magic wand:

“I would ask everybody to build all of their systems and processes and policies based on people who can’t afford it,” she said. “I am a real believer that energy is a basic right as a human being.”

To learn more about the need for inclusion and diversity in the energy and utilities sector, you can download WUN’s report, Unconscious bias in the utilities sector: what is the reality?.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Victoria Mustard, who has contributed to the content of this blog, for hosting the DecarbDiscussions podcast and for her hard work and dedication to Xoserve’s mission. We wish her every success in her future endeavours.

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To learn more about how Xoserve supports the decarbonisation of gas, take a look at our decarbonisation knowledge centre.

If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions for our Decarbonisation Team, please email us.

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