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International Women’s Day 2023: Five steps to hiring more women in engineering and utilities

This International Women’s Day (March 8th), employers in the engineering and utilities sectors should consider the simple steps they should be taking to address the workforce gender imbalance that has affected these industries for many decades.

To mark this celebration of female progress and empowerment, Lanes Group plc is sharing five statistics that demonstrate the current obstacles preventing women from progressing in these sectors, and five vital solutions that businesses should implement to help tackle these trends.

The following figures indicate some of the problems with the current status quo:

Only 19% of employees in the energy and utilities sector are female, compared to a UK average of 48% across all trades. This falls below 1% when considering the craft-level workforce specifically1.

Women make up only 16.5% of all engineers in the country, although this has grown over the last few years2.

Five out of 10 women working in the utilities industry feel that company culture in the sector has hindered their career progression3.

58% of the British public believes men and women are not given the same chances to succeed in trade roles4.

82% of people said they would be surprised if their drainage engineer was a woman5.

These statistics demonstrate the significant cultural, structural and historical barriers that often prevent women from succeeding in the energy and utilities sectors. In many cases, these attitudes are reflected by female employees and candidates themselves, who do not feel inspired to reach their full potential due to a lack of opportunities or role models. Employers will need to make a concerted effort to address these trends if these industries are to make meaningful change.

Here are five of the most important steps that businesses should take to address long-standing issues with female recruitment:

1. Provide robust internal training programmes – this will enable your organisation to maximise staff capabilities and teach new skills, which helps to make roles more accessible for talented female staff to enter the industry without any prior experience

2.Offer more flexible rotas and working hours – this will help to ensure that female employees can achieve a better work-life balance, something that many women consider a barrier to entry in the utilities sector

3. Examine and report on gender-based pay disparities – by monitoring and publishing this data in a transparent manner, you can recognise any disparities, take steps to address the problem, and publicly highlight your commitment to greater equity

4. Eliminate unconscious bias from your job listings and communications – ensure that the language you use in your recruitment outreach is not explicitly or implicitly male-coded

5. Create an empowering and supportive working culture – foster an environment that values the voices and contributions of every staff member, and ensure that strong female role models and mentors are given an opportunity to help shape the corporate culture and policies

Debi Bell, Head of HR Services of Lanes Group, said: “International Women’s Day is an occasion when many employers will highlight their commitments to support female workers and promote diversity in their workplaces. However, it is undeniable that some sectors will have a harder time demonstrating their progress than others.

“As one of the UK’s leading drainage and wastewater companies, Lanes Group recognises that much more needs to be done to create a fully inclusive environment for women within the utilities sector. Positive steps have been made in recent years, but there is still a long way to go, as is shown by the statistics we’ve highlighted.

“At Lanes Group, we employ female colleagues at every level of our organisation, from the field to the boardroom. As a result, we have seen first-hand the direct benefits of creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace, where everyone feels that they have an equal opportunity to succeed.

“This International Women’s Day, we call on employers across the engineering and utilities sectors to commit to addressing the historic gender imbalances that have long affected these industries by taking effective, practical steps. Only through concerted, long-term effort will we be able to solve these problems for good.”

1. According to data from the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership

2. According to stats published by Engineering UK in March 2022

3. According to a September 2022 survey from the Womens Utilities Network

4 and 5. According to Lanes Group’s 2022 Diversity in Hiring survey of 669 UK adults

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