The energy and utilities sector today [23 June] marked International Women in Engineering Day with a series of case studies highlighting engineering heroes in the sector, and a call for more women to join them.
Engineers have played a major role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The public health crisis has brought into sharp focus how engineers deliver and maintain critical services and infrastructure, keep civic society functioning at every level, and support lives and livelihoods. They are also undertaking world-leading research and innovation to tackle the long-term global challenges of our time, especially the climate emergency.
Last month, the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership released a detailed data snapshot highlighting recent changes in the energy and utilities sector. Between the period 2016-2019 the percentage of women in the sector went down 0.6% to 18.3% of the total workforce, compared to 47.3% of women in the UK’s workforce across all sectors. The water industry had the highest percentage of women in the workforce at 29.1%. The power industry saw an increase in female recruits during the three-year period, but this increase was driven primarily by women in sales and customer service roles, rather than engineering.
The energy and utilities sector needs 277,000 new recruits by 2029 to keep it powered. Phil Beach CBE, Energy & Utility Skills Chief Executive, said:
“Energy and utilities companies will play a key role in delivering the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution to achieve net zero carbon targets in 2050. There is more to do to increase the number of women in engineering roles and as a sector we are already addressing this with initiatives like the Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy 2020-2025 and the Sector’s Inclusion Commitment. We know there is a lot still to achieve, but as a sector we are working together to attract, recruit, and develop a diverse workforce to fill the green jobs being created.”
Jan Ward CBE, Chair of the Energy & Utility Skills Board and CEO of her own international engineering business, highlights her direct experience to encourage women to enter engineering.
“The energy and utilities sector is vital for the future of the UK. When I was a teenage single mum, there were no role models I could aspire to and I work hard to provide that inspiration to others now. I hope other women see the potential of roles in engineering and never turn down an opportunity – every chance could lead to a lifelong fulfilling career.”
Suzanna Bryant, Advanced Commissioning Engineer at National Grid, agrees:
“The aspect of my work that makes me proudest is leading the way for other women to become engineers, helping to make the energy sector greener. I think I’d like my legacy to be the equipment and connections that I help commission and bring onto the network – green energy such as solar farms.”
Sophie Russell, Design Engineer at Scottish Power, wants more women to be aware of the benefits on offer. She says:
“Not many young women recognise the opportunities this sector can provide. For example, the pay, career progression and training is really good. I’ve had technical training, communications training and leadership training; plus training in building relationships, decision-making and customer service. I’ve even had self-development training.”
Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive and for businesses to be representative of the communities they serve. Susan Robson, Principal Consultant, Internal Consulting at National Grid, champions this:
“Diversity of thought has been proven to drive the most innovative outcomes and decisions, so making sure our workforce attracts and includes everyone means we can run our business more efficiently, effectively and innovatively. This means our customers are getting better value, services and products which, when you maintain and operate the energy system in the UK, is significant to the economy and society.”
Energy & Utilities Jobs, the platform dedicated to raising awareness of career opportunities in the sector, offers the UK public insights into career paths – including apprenticeships, graduate programmes and professional roles – plus a gateway to current live roles. Stephie Pascal, Process Engineer for Spirit Energy, part of the Centrica group, says: “There are so many opportunities in the energy industry at the moment – there is a skills shortage for almost all types of engineers as a large percentage of current engineers are approaching retirement age. Also, to meet the changing needs of consumers not only is engineering/technical expertise needed but commercial expertise as well.”
Our #EngineeringHeroes in the energy and utilities sector are part of the UK’s team of key workers. They have been keeping the lights on, homes and businesses heated, clean water running, and recycling and waste collected and processed. Read the full case studies of Jan, Sophie, Stephie, Susan, Suzanna and more at https://www.energyutilitiesjobs.co.uk/.