We’ve opened up the First Women Awards once again for our readers to decide which company deserves the prestigious Business of the Year title – with EDF Energy the focus of this feature.
Fiona Jackson, head of strategic resourcing at the business, spoke to First Women about its efforts to improve diversity.
Traditionally, the energy provider has been a very male-dominated organisation, particularly in the generation division of the business, where female representation is around 13 per cent.
On the customer side, the balance is closer to a 50-50 and EDF Energy is looking to spread this across to the leadership and the senior team.
By 2030 the company is aiming to have 37 per cent women across its entire UK workforce, with at least 35 per cent represented in management and senior leadership. The figure at this level currently stands at ten per cent. EDF Energy has its work cut out for it.
“We’ve put in place targets for gender and ethnicity at employee, manager and senior leadership level, so that we focus not only on attracting women into our organisation but also how we’re promoting them,” Jackson said.
The strategic intent behind EDF’s diversity drive, aside from fostering innovation and reflecting its customers, is to buttress its investment in projects like building Hinkley Point C.
Through its campus EDF Energy deploys a women’s development programme for employees and manager, teaching them how to navigate the organisation and promote themselves, get visible and go for higher roles,
Jackson explained: “We’re focusing on the speed and pace at which we’re getting women ready for senior positions.
“Everyone can put themselves forward for the campus schemes, and we supplement this at a senior level with talent managers creating one-to-one programmes that are tracked and monitored by the senior team.”
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This bespoke approach to advancing senior women has seen their numbers increase in leadership by four to five per cent in the last two years.
And to ensure its women are available, EDF Energy offers flexible working, career break opportunities and extensive maternity and paternity leave policies, Jackson told us.
“A large percentage of the organisation have a formal flexible working arrangement but increasingly a large proportion do it informally,” she added.
“Our maternity policy goes well beyond statutory requirements, in providing extra time off and paid.
“We also retrain people coming back to technical roles, but we run keeping in touch opportunities during maternity leave and career breaks, where staff are encouraged to attend key meetings to stay abreast of what’s happening.”
Amongst some of the things EDF Energy has done to bring inclusivity to its plants was to change leadership behaviours, expecting its leaders to exhibit inclusion and build inclusive environments.
Jackson said: “If you have an inclusive organisation where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work, speak out and be themselves, it’s open culture. That culture enables feedback on safety. If people see things they feel might not be safe they’ll report it.”
To ensure it is progressing on its aims, EDF benchmarks itself against other companies, scrutinising its policies and developments against industry standards. For example, the company was the first energy company to achieve the National Equality Standard.
We are tracking and monitoring our internal HR processes, for example, to look for bias, blockages and areas of challenge,” Jackson commented. “And where there’s real problem we can specifically address them.”
One colossal challenge EDF Energy is addressing is the STEM skills shortage, and how it can optimise its talent processes to ensure the career pathways are open, attractive and relevant for female candidates.
“A big majority of recruitment happens through apprenticeships and graduate programmes,” Jackson stated.
“We looked at every step of our apprenticeships process such as the number of girls that apply, to numbers that make it through to shortlisting and their performance at the assessment centre and at interview.”
“We’ve changed the recruitment process to make it more balanced and are now looking at overall performance across different activities. We also brought in external providers to review our assessment and make recommendations on how to make it more inclusive.”
The energy generator is also working with industry partners to bring more women into the sector. As part of the women into construction and engineering schemes it runs with the Engineering Development Trust, participants have hands-on experiences at EDF’s nuclear power stations and get to meet female role models running some of the projects.
Jackson concluded: “The industrial image isn’t that strong but it’s not just hard hats and men in overalls.This is an industry that needs more women, more skills and we’re out there trying to encourage more girls to look at it as an area they can enter.”