Following the launch of Energy UK’s Equality and Diversity Forum in 2018, and some great events and workshops on diversity and inclusion over the past year, we wanted to do something special to mark International Women’s Day this year.
We felt it was important to highlight the multitude of roles and opportunities for women in the energy industry. So, who better to speak to, than the women already working in the sector.
The response we received was phenomenal, with over 50 women coming to London to share what they enjoy about working in energy and their advice for others. Be inspired by hearing their views and advice here.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I also wanted to share their words of wisdom on how to get into – and get on in - the energy sector.
On getting into the sector:
- Identify role models: if you want advice on how to get somewhere, ask someone who is doing the role now. Suzanne Flockhart from Orsted said: “Find somebody who is already working in the area of industry that you are interested in or doing a role that you want to do, they can give you the best advice on how to get there and what to do.” LinkedIn can be a useful source of information and contacts.
- Sound scary? Don’t be afraid. Be brave and reach out – as Angela Hepworth from EDF Energy says “don’t be afraid to reach out for help and advice to other women who are already working in the sector because most people are delighted to be asked and would be really delighted to help.”
- Do your research: do your research and really get to know the sector. “Find the companies that undertake the jobs that you want to do and go and talk to them - it’s an open-door industry” says Lisa Waters from Waters Wye Associates. Maria Kokkinaki from Energy UK adds: “stay up to date on industry trends” which can be done via online and by reading reports and trade publications such as Utility Week.
- It’s not only engineering: it is a common misconception that working in energy means being an engineer, whereas there are a multitude of different roles and disciplines. As Isabelle Gilks from Wood Mackenzie says: “don’t be put off if you don’t have a science, technology or engineering background - there are career paths for everybody.”
- But we also have awesome female engineers! Fiona Rooney, a field engineer for Utilita, has been an engineer for more than 13 years, says “women can do this, just work hard and strive to be the best”. Laura Greenwood from Utilita, who has also been an engineer for over ten years, says “if you want to do it, you’ll get plenty of support and guidance”.
- Get some work experience: Rachel Williams from Wood Mackenzie says it is valuable to “get some work experience … to help consolidate your viewpoint of the industry”. Many companies also offer apprenticeships.
- Abandon your misconceptions: the energy sector is going through a massive transition and changing rapidly. “Don’t buy into the idea that it’s a boys club, this is one of the most exciting, forward-thinking industries of today and of the future” says Penny Fox from BEIS.
On getting on in the sector:
- Build strong networks: it is important to build a strong network of contacts across the industry. As Jenny Twisleton from National Grid says: “build a strong network around you - that will help you learn and grow and even find job opportunities.”
- Be confident and shout about your successes: as Yasmin Ali from BEIS says, be confident and “tell people what you want to do and what you are passionate about”. Tanisha Beebee from the CBI also says “shout about your achievements at every opportunity”.
- Be social: social media networks can be a great source of information and connections. “Follow industry leaders on Twitter” says Sarah Brook from Energy UK, and attend industry events.
- Don’t underestimate yourself: it is a common phenomenon that women often don’t put themselves forward for roles or promotions they are qualified for, whereas men may put themselves forward for roles they’re under-qualified for. As Lauren Jauss from RWE says: “continually ask yourself in every situation, are you underestimating yourself and overestimating your colleagues?”
- Be curious: don’t be afraid to ask questions. As Rebecca Rosling from EDF Energy says “always be curious, always ask questions - it’s endlessly complicated and interesting and no one has all the answers.”
- Speak up … especially if you have a different view: the sector can only avoid ‘group-think’ and benefit from new ideas by hearing a diversity of views and opinions. Gurpreet Mangat from Centrica says “the sector values innovation and creativity so I’d always say just share your ideas.” “Don’t be afraid to have another opinion” says Sophia Haywood from UK LPG – “even in a room full of men” adds Marta Krajewska from Energy UK.
- Highlight your skills: Vivienne Inmonger from RES says: “Highlight your transferable skills - skills that you have picked up in other sectors will be just as useful in the energy sector.” This is something Natalie Boahene from Statkraft found to be true, she says: “I’ve come from an economics background, but I found that my experience whist studying at university still has been really relevant in the industry.”
- Embrace the challenge: a number of women highlighted that while there might be challenges, you can always learn from these experiences and they could present an opportunity. Both Sonam Patel from UK Power Reserve and Anna D’Alessandro, from Energy UK say “look at challenges as opportunities.”
- Set clear objectives: Su-Yen Foong from Energy UK says “set yearly goals for yourself and always ensure that you are developing your skills within the sector.” This was echoed by Natallia Sharapina from E.ON who says “set your objectives and you will always find the way to achieve them.”
- Push yourself beyond your comfort zone: it can be easy to find reasons to say no, especially when something feels challenging but Angela Love from Elexon says: “Don’t hold yourself back - take every opportunity you can.” This was a view shared by Beth Brown, also from Elexon, who says: “Be interested in what’s going on and put yourself forward.”
- So, just say yes: Catherine Hunter from Aspectus says: “Just say yes, there are fantastic opportunities - all you’ve got to do is just take them.” This feeling was shared by many women – “say yes to opportunities” says Isabelle O’Dowd from WWF UK, “just go for it” says Audrey Gallacher from Energy UK and Benedicte Rifai from EDF Energy says “go for it, it’s exciting and ... you will have plenty of opportunities”.
- And finally, be yourself: Lucy Smedley from E.ON says: “Bring your true self to work - sometimes we can feel like we have to be someone else, but this is not the case.” Similarly, Virginia Ruiz Albacete from Scottish Power says: “Above all, be true to yourself”. And the final word goes to Helen Thomas from innogy who says: “Most of all, enjoy your journey.”
Abbie Sampson, Director of External Affairs at Energy UK