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NEWS & INSIGHTS | article

Breaking bias and barriers; helping woman soar in the workplace

29 April 2022 3 minute read

Laura Paterson, People and Organisational Development Director chats to The Herald about attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Breaking bias and barriers; helping woman soar in the workplace

It probably wouldn’t be completely fair or accurate to describe Scotland’s energy sector as being pale, male and stale, but it’s not exactly a hothouse of diversity either. However, real efforts are now being made to change that.

There is a recognition that more work needs to be done across the industry, whether it be in oil and gas or in renewables. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), women account for one-third of the global renewables workforce and if we drill down to a specific sector such as wind, only a fifth of workers are women. However, progress is being made, with the Net Zero Technology Centre one of the organisations leading the way.

The Centre was created as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal and is charged with developing and deploying technology to build an affordable net zero energy industry. It sees diversity and inclusion as key drivers for the future and is actively working to encourage change.

Laura Paterson, its People and Organisational Development Director, has worked in the energy sector for more than 20 years and does see forward movement in this area, though so far it has been rather slow.

“We need to have more focus on this”, she says. “We need to make sure that we are including all people in society. It’s about how we bring a sense of belonging to those who perhaps don’t want to do an engineering degree, or who don’t want to be the only female studying computer science.”

“The pandemic had a huge impact on the global workforce and gender equality, with many people being forced to leave or scale back careers due to caring responsibilities and generally less opportunity in the workplace as a result of the uncertainty and disruption.”

The real issue, she believes, is how to encourage young females into the energy industry.

Encouragement starts at school

“The challenge is that companies are finding it hard to find female graduates to begin with. That means they have a very limited diverse pool to select from. So we have to start from before employment – from a very young age in terms of education.

 “The other challenge is that oil and gas has attracted people who have worked in the sector before, so it’s very specific. Renewables is newer, so it’s been a bit more willing to take people from more diverse backgrounds – they may have worked in different areas of manufacturing, for example.

“I think what is going to be key to addressing the problem is seeking individuals who have transferable skills but perhaps don’t have the direct industry background. For example, if you are, say, an engineer with an oil and gas background, you can easily shift over to renewables.”

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