Engineering and renewable energy businesses are traditionally male-dominated industries, but the issue of diversity affects businesses across the country.
An independent study carried out in 2013 found that a man starting his career in a FTSE 100 company is four and a half times more likely to make it to the Executive Committee than a female colleague.
The main goal
As part of Centrica, British Gas takes a strong position on diversity in the workplace. We are committed to doing everything we can to create an environment that is attractive and supportive to our female staff.
‘Here at Centrica we believe that women, like all of our employees, should be developed and promoted on merit,’ says Matt Easland, Centrica’s Group Corporate Responsibility Manager. ‘We therefore have strong female representation at all levels throughout our business.’
Over the last few years, Centrica have been actively implementing programs and initiatives to support, enable and empower women across the business.
Women’s networking and skills development
Jennie Godfrey, HR director at British Gas Business, also heads up the Centrica Women’s Network. She believes its main role is ‘to connect people. If they develop as a result, then that’s a fantastic bonus’.
The Network hosts regular events to provide inspiration and training for female employees. In addition, the earls Programme actively identifies women who could benefit from additional coaching, networking and support to raise confidence and help them make positive, informed career choices.
Jennie explains that her goal is to help people improve their network and their skillset. She believes that women shouldn’t need to ‘fit in’ with a company culture; a good company culture should suit everyone.
In 2013, the Women’s Network Challenge saw women from across the international business network attend a five-day event in the Norwegian Arctic Circle. Here they took on a variety of physically, mentally and emotionally demanding activities.
Director of Regulatory Affairs Lisa Minns stated ‘Since the trip, I’ve been able to benefit from the relationships I built, and help others in their careers too.’
Flexible working options
In order to accommodate family commitments, Centrica allows for a flexible working structure for all working parents and carers. In 2014 we won ‘Best for Flexible Working’ at the Working Families Awards.
We’re also addressing areas of specific need within the business. For example, we piloted a gender diversity scheme in the Service & Repair department, typically seen as a male line of employment.
The pilot focused on recruitment and retention of women, and flexible working for everyone in the department. As a result, we increased the number of female regional managers in Service & Repair.
Apprenticeships and gender stereotypes
We’ve found that the cultural norms which give rise to gender-traditional views affect young men and women before they even begin their careers.
New research by British Gas shows that over a third of UK parents (35%) give their children different career advice depending on the child’s gender.
And they are twice as likely to advise a boy to take up an apprenticeship.
This pattern is reflected in uptake of our apprenticeship programme: in 2014 only 4% of applicants to our competitive technical and engineering apprenticeships were female.
Across the UK, 22% of boys say they’ll apply for an apprenticeship, but only 10% of girls.
As Managing Director of Service & Repair Claire Miles explains ‘It’s clear from this research that apprenticeships are still regarded as something of a man’s world among young people. That’s behind the times! … Apprenticeships are a great way into an organisation’.
Women at the top of the ladder
Centrica is not alone. Across the UK, businesses are making a concerted effort to ensure that women are represented in positions of power.
FTSE 100 companies are currently driving towards a target of 25% female board members. In 2011, one in five FTSE 100 companies had all-male boards. By 2014 only two companies had all-male boards.
In 2014 Centrica was 19th on the FTSE Female 100 list, with 27.3% female representation at board level. While British Gas has increased the number of women on its leadership team to 50%.
On 23 June this year, British Gas Business hosted a small panel discussion for National Women in Engineering Day. The panel talked about ways to get more women into engineering and you can read more about the discussion and the speakers themselves here.