John Stewart is Director of HR at SSE. In this guest post, he writes about how SSE is working to tackle the gender pay gap.
The UK’s energy industry is facing significant employment challenges which can be summed up as a tale of two halves. Around half of the industry’s workforce could be retired by around 2023; and around half of the country’s population – women – are very poorly represented in the industry (just 21%1). If we are to build a workforce for the 2020s and beyond, to continue the transformation of the energy industry, and play a full part in realising the country’s industrial strategy ambitions, we have to act.
This is a potential crisis – but, as the saying goes, we shouldn’t let it go to waste. We now have the opportunity to build new pipelines of talent and ensure our sector has a diverse workforce to equip it for a sustainable future.
The diversity challenge is the most multifaceted. We know that energy is historically a male–dominated industry. Not enough women in the UK are choosing careers in engineering or in technical operational roles. There are many deep and cultural reasons for this but as a sector we have to take an active role in remedying it.
At SSE our efforts to improve the inclusiveness of our workforce have prioritised gender representation in the short term, although we are starting to ensure that our plans and actions support inclusion in the widest sense.
SSE was one of the first FTSE listed companies to publish its gender pay gap in 2015/16. Being an early adopter has proved instructive to SSE and supported the formation of its ‘in, on and up’ strategy.
Encouraging women in
The first stage to inclusion and diversity is to attract more women applicants. We know we have been relying on traditional recruitment routes, which tend to deliver similar people from similar backgrounds. We looked at our recruitment process and training to help our hiring managers think differently – especially at managerial and senior appointment level.
Support women to stay on
Retaining women within the organisation is critical. Companies need to look at their culture, their policies and processes to make sure they don’t just attract more women into the company but they keep them there too. For example, we know flexible working is a key contributor to attract, retain and support progression of women in the workplace so we looked at how we could be better. Also, how you better support women returning to work after maternity leave or a career break can have a huge impact on how they continue to develop, and this is something that we are engaging with government on in their current consultation.
Support women to progress up
Creating conditions where women are present in the highest levels of the organisation will take time. Currently 13% of our female employees are in roles earning over £40,000 and we want to see this increase to at least 25% by 2025. To achieve this initiatives such as ‘Shadow Boards’ has proved an interesting pilot to help promote and showcase emerging talent.
Diversity, of course, takes many forms and these challenges won’t be overcome overnight. The publication of gender pay gap statistics for the past two years has helped us to understand the nature of the challenge and been instrumental in our strategy to dealing with it. Our next step is to publish analysis of the impact of our work to close the gender pay gap and the actions needed to be more effective in doing so.