Seen but not heard

White paper reveals women working in utilities victims of unconscious bias

A new white paper, launched jointly by Womens Utilities Network (WUN) and The Marketing Pod, has found that unconscious bias could be the root cause of women leaving jobs in the traditionally male dominated utilities industries, with 84 per cent saying women are given more administrative and organisational tasks.

‘Unconscious bias in the utilities sector: what is the reality?’ gathered the views of 375 members of the utilities sector to understand how women are being treated and whether their experiences demonstrate the existence of unconscious bias.

The key findings would suggest that, while women have made headway in terms of reaching senior positions, their voices are not as respected as those of their male colleagues.

84 per cent of survey respondents say women are given more administrative and organisational tasks over leading and challenging tasks, while 46 per cent often hesitate to offer an opinion or share an idea – even though they know it has value. In addition, 41 per cent of women say they don’t feel their voice is heard in meetings and that they are constantly interrupted when speaking.

There was also assumption that women are the primary caregivers, with 78 per cent of respondents saying they were likely to assume that a female colleague with children is the primary caregiver, whereas 88 per cent were unlikely to assume the same of a male colleague with children.

Moreover, women holding senior positions within the industry feel that they receive increased scrutiny, with 31 per cent feeling they would be judged harshly if they failed or underperformed for any reason.

Jo Butlin, co-founder at WUN commented: “Following feedback from our network that a disproportionate number of women are leaving their jobs in the utilities sector, we knew that we were in a strong position to find out why – and what could be done about it.

“The white paper makes for uncomfortable reading – particularly around the way women feel about themselves as a result of attitudes towards them. We received a number of heartfelt comments from women working in the sector who described how undervalued they feel and how often they are spoken over and ignored.

“I would urge every leader and decision maker to read our white paper, and take note of the five key actions that could help create a more balanced, nurturing work environment for the benefit of all.”

Jenny Hughes, co-founder and director of The Marketing Pod, which specialises in decarbonisation and sustainability, added, “As a business founded by women, and which works with organisations operating in the utilities sector, this is a subject that really resonates with us.

“Although the research reveals a culture where the many skills and expertise women have to offer are often being overlooked and undervalued, the white paper also provides actionable advice for building a more supportive and accepting workplace, where different viewpoints can be nurtured and appreciated.

“This is something of a guiding principle for us at The Marketing Pod so we welcomed the chance to work with WUN to find out what could be causing the exodus of female talent.”

The survey, which was shared through the networks of WUN and The Marketing Pod, resulted in 375 responses, 358 of which came from female members of the utilities sector. The majority of respondents were aged between 25 and 54 and have spent a minimum of five years working in utilities.

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