If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that we were at the flagship event ‘Future of Utilities’ last week. The event itself is a great networking tool – and with some very senior speakers, I did some great learning too. However, what was startling was the sheer lack of diversity at the event. I often will talk about how the utilities sector is largely ‘male and pale’ and nowhere was this demonstrated more starkly than when you looked at the attendees and speakers at the event last week.
Only 16% of speakers were female, and looking at the registered delegate list – only 19% of attendees were women! How is this possible in this day and age? We know that there are successful women at senior levels of utility companies across the country – in fact, many of them are members of the Women’s Utility Network (WUN). So where were they? We often hear that conference organisers struggle to sign up female chairs and speakers – and in fact Renewable UK have started up a database of female leaders who are keen to put themselves forward. So it shouldn’t be that difficult to get a more equal gender balance on panels and at events.
WUN was created, to offer networking benefits to women that male industry participants had enjoyed for years. But I do wonder if women are less likely to see the benefits of networking – or rather have to prioritise other things in their very busy lives. If women are balancing childcare and work – they might not have the time available to travel to events, and spend time focusing on building their network. And therein lies the problem – networking is a critical part of building your career. Events like last week’s Future of Utilities are about learning, building skills, meeting new people and expanding your experience. We need to sell the benefits of speaking at and attending events like these to the women in our sector. Not only do you promote your business, you are also promoting yourself – both within your own organisation but also to a wider audience. And that will only help you succeed.
So I’m issuing a challenge to all the women out there – stand up and be counted. Sign up for Renewable UK’s #Timetoswitch campaign (not just for renewable experts), put yourself forward to chair or speak at events, and make sure you are attending industry events. Networking is a crucial step in building your career – make sure you are there!