Posted: 23 June 2014
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Better together

Diverse teams create better outcomes for business and are more representative of the wider community. Here, Corporate Responsibility & Sponsorships Manager Caroline Hooley and Senior Strategy Analyst Susan McDonald explain the importance of encouraging more women into engineering careers. They also reveal what National Grid is doing to mark National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) and to address gender imbalance in the workplace.

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Better together

Better together

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) is an opportunity to show young women students what a career in engineering can look like.

"NWED is also about recognising that engineering jobs provide interesting and challenging careers in diverse sectors that are open to both men and women."

Susan McDonald, National Grid Senior Strategy Analyst.

Insight:

The Women into Energy video features National Grid's public pledge to introduce a series of measures that will help to recruit 20% more women to National Grid by 2015.

Source: National Grid

There’s growing evidence that UK companies need to have a broad range of talent in the workforce if they want to maintain a competitive position globally – and that mixed teams bring diverse thought, experience, perspective and greater consideration to the business outcome of project. You really get a whole-life view of a particular challenge and how to achieve the best result.

As businesses, we need to reflect the gender balance in society in order to better understand the challenges and effects of our actions, strengthen our social standing and foster networks rooted in trust. In short, businesses need to look like the communities they serve.

And we must also champion diverse thinking and creative problem-solving, harnessing innovation and creating value for our business and for society.

This is one reason why we’ve marked NWED this year by producing our Women into Energy video (above). The video highlights the need to encourage more women into engineering careers, and it features our public pledge to introduce a series of measures that will help us to recruit 20% more women to National Grid by 2015.

In addition, we’re supporting a campaign championed by Baroness Verma of the Department of Energy & Climate Change called POWERful Women, which is showcasing female leadership potential in the UK’s energy sector. The campaign is working towards a position where, by 2030, women will make up 30% of energy company executive board members and 40% of energy company middle managers.

We’ve signed up to the Government’s Your Life campaign – a nationwide call to action to attract more women into technology and engineering – which recognises that boosting skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects will be essential if the UK is to thrive in the global economy.

Our Women in National grid (WING) group also recently hosted a debate on the rise of the female economy (click here to read more) examining what businesses need to do to encourage and retain women into management and boardroom roles.

Engineering skills are in short supply and high demand. What better way is there to start a career than one in which you’re doing something of high value that has a significant impact on others?

Deep-rooted problem solving

The foundation of engineering is good analysis, looking at things methodically and deep-rooted problem solving. Nowadays it’s no longer just about doing a good job, but also being aware of stakeholders and how the job touches the community. So NWED is an opportunity to show young women students what a career in engineering can look like.

Some young people see it as a life working in blue overalls or imagine they’ll be stuck at a desk with no human contact all day, both of which we know are far from the truth.

This day is a chance to explain that the strength of engineers lies in their business acumen and involvement with the community, not just the technical aspects of the job. The great thing is that, when you’re speaking to the community, you’re speaking on a personal level. Part of being an engineer is being able to go out and explain what you do.

National Grid’s role is connecting people to their energy supply, and energy demand is critical –we all want to be assured that, when we put the TV or lights on, they work! Making that happen is partly down to infrastructure and sustainability. So being an engineer with National Grid is not just a technical role, it’s about design, visual impact, protecting the environment, the community, the cost.

A key skill for an engineer is being able to take all these layers and perspectives into account. And women have strengths that play very much to that skill.

NWED is also about providing clarity on what engineering is and recognising that engineering jobs provide interesting and challenging careers in diverse sectors that are open to both men and women.

Engineering is many things and perhaps people don’t really understand that. At National Grid, it’s working in an energy company that’s at the heart of connecting people to their power supply. To other engineers, it’s designing a really efficient car. It’s also working in biomedicine, or on the next challenge in combating climate change.

NWED highlights that the roles engineers play are critical every day – whether that’s a product engineer on a mobile phone, or keeping the London Underground safe, reliable and sustainable.

Role models

We need more women at every level of every organisation within our industry. We also need to foster role models who can help to change people’s perceptions about the industry, encourage more female minds into the field and help enthuse young students who are at the point of trying to decide what they want to be.

One way of connecting people to these aspirations is by showing them what a career in engineering can look like and, importantly, how rewarding it can be. NWED helps us to shine a light on success.

For example, National Grid is proud that we have a number of key female role models and many firsts within our team: Emma Fitzgerald, the first female director of our Gas Distribution business; Rachel Morfill, the first female power system manager of the Electricity Control Centre; Cordi O’Hara, the first female director in charge of keeping the country’s lights on.

These are critical roles and these women are great examples of what a career in energy can offer, demonstrating that engineering skills are a great foundation to take you through a challenging career in a field that truly matters.

But, while it’s great to see what these women have achieved, they are still ‘firsts’. By celebrating the value that both men and women can bring to engineering, we can ensure that, in future, there aren’t any firsts. It should become just business as usual, and whether you’re male or female, everyone has someone they can look up to who looks like they do!

Read more:

Simon Langley, National Grid’s UK Lead Manager for Inclusion and Diversity, explains why gender imbalance and other forms of exclusion are such an important challenge for business.

Susan McDonald, National Grid’s Senior Strategy Analyst, reports on the company’s debate on the rise of the female economy.

Looking ahead to FES 2018