Supporting gender equity in the workplace

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8 March 2023 - It’s International Women’s Day today, and people across the globe are celebrating the huge impact women have made – and are continuing to make – economically, politically, socially and culturally. And with gender parity and equity at the forefront of this year’s theme, it’s also a day of championing equal opportunities for all.

It’s a great opportunity to pause and take a moment to celebrate the contribution of women around the world – recognising the journey so far from a historic milestone point of view.

International Women’s Day is also a step towards driving awareness and celebrating success. But as a mum of two future women in the workplace, I really hope the steps being taken today mean days like this become an everyday reality – in all workplaces and in life generally.

This year’s theme is embracing equity – I love the fact that it actually explores the problem more collectively. In reality, if you think about the difference between equality and equity, equity is a means to enable equality.

What equity does is recognise that each person is different, will have different circumstances, and therefore needs the right resources and opportunities to reach equal outcomes. Simply put, equality is getting the exact same thing. But that only works when we’re all the same to start with.

Caroline Beldon describes it well in her book, ‘The Inclusion Solution’: “Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.”

Unfortunately, as a global society, we have a long way to go. Just have a read of Caroline Perez’ ‘Invisible Women’, which brings to life the data bias that has led to the inequality which is inherent in everything we do. But we have to start somewhere…

Achieving true gender equality will take time, and a lot of mindset change – in both workplaces and in society. We can’t just wave a magic wand and expect things to change.

I think that leaders in the workplace need to embrace and own the agenda of equity. And as an organisation, it needs to be part of the cultural DNA to create an environment for people to flourish. This means recognising that everyone’s starting point may be different, and proactively creating opportunities to balance disparity, where it exists.

At UW, we’re committed to building a workplace where women thrive – not just for International Women’s Day, but every day of the year. We’re always actively encouraging and supporting women in leadership roles, with Libby Townsend, our recently-appointed Chief People Officer (CPO), continuing the fantastic work.

Of course, we’re not just focusing on leadership – we want to make UW a great place to work for everyone, at every level. We’re proud to have been endorsed by Work180 and Women in Utilities Network (WUN) as an employer that has, and continues to, evolve and present an attractive employee offering for women. On top of that, WUN is working with us to offer free mentoring to women at UW.

Our team has been looking at gender decoding - which means making our job ads gender-neutral, because we know different words resonate with different people. We’ve also been looking at where and how women in certain skills groups network, and how we can build our presence and engage with and attract future talent using this knowledge.

We’ve also been focusing on how we can support mums returning to work – looking at whether roles can be flexible or part-time, and how we can support them and upskill them as they return to the workplace. Plus, we recently updated UW’s family-friendly policies. While we already offer part-time work and flexibility wherever possible to support mums returning to work, we also enhanced our maternity pay policy. And we have regular, open discussions about topics like mental health and menopause, alongside providing support on our online learning platform, Spark.

And don't forget – you can help too. There are, without a doubt, some amazing women in your life. Who do you know who'd make a great addition to UW? Keep an eye out for open roles here.

For more information about careers at UW, visit our LinkedIn