Chief People Officer, Cadent
The utilities industry — which needs to attract a range of skillsets to meet net zero challenges — is working hard to demonstrate its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Historically, the utilities industry has been characterised as predominantly white and almost exclusively male. But companies in the sector are doing their best to change that outdated, stereotypical view by putting diversity and inclusion strategies at the heart of everything they do.
“Becoming a diverse organisation doesn’t happen by chance,” admits Martin Rimmer, Chief People Officer at gas distribution network, Cadent. “You have to work at it. But talent comes in many forms and to address the net zero challenges we face; we need to find skillsets from every part of society. Which means that companies such as ours have an obligation to be accessible to all.” It’s tempting to think that this is a sector where only engineering professionals need apply. But this isn’t the case because it offers various non-engineering opportunities, including customer-facing, back office and business roles.
Rimmer’s organisation is using various strategies to promote equality, diversity and inclusion across the workplace, such as deploying a D&I manager and a STEM ambassador. Meanwhile, all staff have access to a number of employee communities including a women’s network, a group for colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds and a group for members of the armed forces who enter the business.
I do think it’s important for companies to establish commitments to achieve certain diversity and inclusion outcomes.
An exciting industry delivering forward-thinking career opportunities
One of the company’s most recent groups, Pride at Work, is for current and future generations of LGBTQ+ employees and takes part in a number of activities such as this year’s Birmingham Pride event. “Our newest community, Thrive! is employee-led and designed to provide support for people with disabilities within the organisation.”
So, are things changing across the industry in general? Rimmer believes they are. “I’m a member of several HR-focussed groups, and most of the webinars and meetings I attend reference the need to be more diverse and inclusive,” he says. “I don’t think that means setting targets, but I do think it’s important for companies to establish commitments to achieve certain diversity and inclusion outcomes and drive the D&I agenda forward.”
New recruits will find that it’s an exciting time for the industry. “Our organisation believes that hydrogen is the future of energy supply,” says Rimmer. “That in itself creates forward-looking career opportunities. As part of this, the whole industry will have to review how it reskills the talent it already has — and sources new skills to secure its future.”