15 Nov ‘WHY BETTER BALANCE IS BETTER FOR BUSINESS’ POWERful Women at Offshore & Floating Wind Europe 2019
How do we inspire young women to build a career in offshore wind, all the way up to the very top? And how do we demonstrate to organisations and leaders that they’ll reap dividends by actively attracting and promoting the very best talent, regardless of gender?
Well, one important way is by showcasing the amazing women that have already reached some of most senior levels in the sector. Visibility is vital – we all know the power of role models. And what a line-up we had in London on 12th November, when we ran our networking and learning lunch at the annual Offshore and Floating Wind Europe Conference.
Teaming up with New Energy Update for the first time for this free story-telling event, we invited energy professionals to come and learn, network and be inspired.
Our panel of powerful women comprised:
- Mary Thorogood, Senior Specialist, Strategy and Business, GSR Business Development at MHI Vestas Offshore Wind;
- Aniela Foster-Turner, Principal Legal Counsel at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy;
- Úna Brosnan, Businesss & Strategy Development Manager at Atkins; and
- Polina Zabelina, Production Team Leader at BP.
Louise Kingham, Chief Executive, Energy Institute and Board Member of POWERful Women, asked the questions and drew out their compelling stories.
The women told of the challenges they had faced during their career journeys – moving to new countries (spanning Russia, Romania, Ireland, Egypt, Australia and the UK) and into different sectors – all of which meant cultural adjustments. Sometimes they changed career direction altogether – returning to studying, retraining, requalifying, often having to start from scratch. In fact, not one of them had had a straight-line career!
But they all recognised that this had built resilience and confidence. And it demonstrated the value of being open to new experiences and learning. “You need to learn to pivot, to be agile. The industry is moving so quickly” said Una. And Polina added: “If you have a good educational background you can learn new things. So don’t hesitate just because you can’t tick all the boxes.”
It was clear that passion has played a key part in their success. A passion for learning, for finding solutions to complex challenges, for engineering and big infrastructure projects – and for their sector. There was real excitement about the market opportunities ahead in offshore wind and their feeling that they are contributing to a better future “It’s not just a good time to be a girl, but also to pursue an engineering career and to make a difference for generations to come” said Aniela.
Of course, all the women were clear on the value of gender diversity. They had been helped on their way by their companies and individual mentors, sponsors and role models. Flexible working was highlighted as critical to those who needed to balance work and family. “I had a boss who was very keen to push people to do their best – he encouraged me into challenging roles and provided me with a platform” explained Una. And Aniela highlighted how leadership is key: “My CEO makes me feel empowered to try change and to ask questions. That makes a massive difference in driving the equal opportunities agenda.”
But there was also recognition that much more needs to be done to truly tap into the vast pool of female talent out there and shift the dial on better balance in the sector. Gender diversity is higher up the agenda but we are still not seeing enough practical action. “In offshore wind we get it, we have targets on diversity in the sector deal, for example,” said Mary. “But are we really doing it on a practical level? When interviewing for positions ns, for example? We need to show that we really mean it.”
Finishing with their top tips for other aspiring women, all agreed that being focussed and empowered is the thing – drive your own career, learn from your mistakes and just go for it. Mary summed it up: “Don’t ask permission – just put your hand up, because there are so many opportunities in renewables right now.”
Our huge thanks to all four women for sharing their stories and to everyone involved for a fascinating discussion. We’ll be following up with some individual case studies so that you can find out more about their career paths and advice, so watch this space!