embrace equity

Embrace Equity This International Women's Day

So Energy

This International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at how the energy industry can #EmbraceEquity. As this year’s theme, Embracing Equity is all about creating a more balanced and inclusive world, so we spoke to our Chief Executive Officer, Monica Collings, about the ways in which So Energy is paving the way to Embrace Equity in the energy sector.

Last year for International Women’s Day, you said the biggest challenge women face in the energy industry is being marginalised, often unconsciously. Have you noticed any progress in this area over the past 12 months?

Since last year, there's more awareness that women are facing marginalisation in our industry. Fortunately, with more awareness comes more discussion and how we include women within the energy sector is becoming an increasingly prominent conversation. I have also seen male allies coming forward more frequently than before and supporting their female peers in situations where they are marginalised. Situations like male-heavy meetings are rife for female marginalisation. When I attended the POWERful Women Conference in November, (read our blog here), I was still surprised at how many women put their hands up when asked whether they had been requested to “take the minutes” or “make the tea” as the only female in a meeting. It needs to change. Organisations such as POWERful Women are working tirelessly to create balance in the energy sector and at So Energy, we’re behind this. This year, our gender split shows we’re truly Embracing Equity: 44% of our senior leaders are female (an increase of 8% from 2022), in middle management, 32% of roles are filled by females and in junior roles, it’s 36%.

I’m pleased this seems to be an improving trend across the energy sector. FTSE energy companies listed in the FTSE Women Leaders Review have also made good progress in increasing female representation on their leadership boards. But there’s still a lot to do if we’re going to meet the commitments we are making to gender equality in our industry by 2040.

This year's theme for International women’s day is #EmbraceEquity. What initiatives is So Energy embracing to make the company a more equitable place for women to work?

We want So Energy to feel like a positive, aspirational place for women (and all those interested in the energy sector) to work. Our first step to Embracing Equity has been to improve (and continue to improve) our recruitment process, including training hiring managers to remove unconscious bias from their interviewing and candidate selection. We also want women at So Energy to grow with us, which is why we’re funding leadership programmes for senior management female leaders, designed specifically to support their professional development and fast-track their training for leadership roles.

This month, we’re introducing a women’s network for women to connect, share, learn, seek mentorship, hold events and so much more. Through the network, women will have a space to meet monthly to focus on personal and professional development and to find comfort in the experiences of other women working in a male-dominated industry. Our mentoring programme has proved very popular within the company and part of this has been to give individuals from all levels the opportunity to meet with members of the Senior Leadership Team and have an open and honest conversation about what’s going well and what can be improved at So Energy.

We’re also dedicated to ensuring our working policies remain flexible with Enhanced Maternity and Paternity Leave to balance the playing field. Soon, we'll be reviewing the terms in our contracts to provide a greater level of autonomy across the business.

We know the way each department operates is unique, which is why each team has a Smart-working Charter, designed specifically with senior members of that team and the work of that team in mind. This is soon to be rolled out to our customer care team with the aim of introducing more flexibility into the running of the contact centre by trialling split shifts and evening and weekend working to create a more inclusive workplace.

We also have exciting plans for this year, acting upon feedback from our peers and inspiration from other companies outside our sector. In particular, we’ve been looking to our partners and supply chain who we see as an extension of us, to replicate best practices. This also helps ensure equity is embraced throughout the supply chain, which is an often overlooked part of this conversation for businesses.

Why do you think organisations like Powerful Women and campaigns like Empower Her In Energy are so important to women seeking a career in the energy industry?

Organisations like these are invaluable, which is why I sit on the Energy Leaders' Coalition because I feel a great deal of personal responsibility as a female leader in energy to role model and pave the way for the next generation.

The new campaign, Empower Her in Energy, is about encouraging women to join the industry. But, we need to ensure they remain, rather than act as a one-off bid to balance the sector. To do this, we need to address the environments that women work in - if we achieve gender equality but do so by expecting every woman to behave like a man in a male-dominated industry is it really deemed successful? I’d argue not. We need to encourage diversity where we genuinely benefit from alternative perspectives.

What advice would you give to other companies looking to #EmbraceEquity to keep this conversation going?

  1. Talk to your people; get feedback from women on what support they want to see in your organisation which might be different from current practices or what support you think is needed

  2. Share best practices with other organisations to accelerate the change by learning from each other

  3. Some of the most powerful learnings and motivating moments have come from sharing stories and looking at the dark underbelly…. if you embrace that then you’re already one step closer to equity