Utilities industry still more male dominated than most sectors says Ofwat chief
11 Aug 2020
Women working across the water industry still face substantial bars to advancement despite some progress, the sector is being held back by exclusion, Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher told a British Water conference.
The keynote speaker at Women on Water said: “I’ve been working in utilities for 25 years and it still feels more male dominated than many other sectors. While it’s great we will soon have six water company female chief executives, it is only in the last 12 months we have got the first female board chair.
“Female executives are still in the minority and mainly limited to customer-facing roles. It feels like we’ve punched some holes in that glass ceiling but it is still looming over us and this worries me because if we look up the ladder and we don’t see anyone like us, it can really limit our aspirations.”
Lack of self-belief remained the biggest barrier to career progression, highlighting the importance of networking events such as Women on Water, she added. However, the industry would only achieve its full potential if it embraces the skills from a more diverse workforce, in particular people with disabilities and those from a Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) background.
“The Black Lives Matter movement is a huge reminder of how far we are from treating everyone as equals and it is something we should be taking seriously. While this discrimination and exclusion is a tragedy for the individuals concerned, it is also something that is holding the water sector back,” commented Fletcher.
“We need to be able to draw the very best talent, wherever it is, and not be limited to drawing from pools of people who look like us on paper or in the flesh. We also need to be able to show the communities we serve that we are just like them if we are to win their trust and really be able to serve them.
Now in its third year, the conference was held in partnership with the Women’s Utilities Network (WUN) and the Institute of Water.
Thanking participants, speakers and event partners, British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “We were determined to host Women on Water during the Covid-19 pandemic as the crisis has highlighted now more than ever, there are women in the industry who need support, encouragement and a network.”