Supporting Women's Water Careers in Uncertain Times

Aug 03, 2020

Career progression may have dropped down the list of priorities for women and men in the water industry during the Covid-19 crisis, while they manage new working arrangements and, in many cases, increased childcare responsibilities.

However, with research* suggesting women are more likely to lose their jobs than men in the global economic crisis, and a survey** revealing working mums fear the crisis has negatively affected their career prospects, personal development should remain in sharp focus.

Women’s Utilities Network (WUN) founder Hayley Monks spoke at British Water’s Women on Water event on 27 July, where the theme was "Empowering Empowered Women". Being held in partnership with WUN and the Institute of Water, the keynote speaker was Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher.

Monks’ presentation focused on personal development, and what women can do to achieve their goals, even during uncertain times, whether they are working mothers, carers, single or have no childcare or caring responsibilities.

She said: “On an individual level, there is concern that Covid-19 could hinder career progression. Many women with children, for example, have taken the lead role in home schooling and childcare, as well as continuing to work and perhaps don’t feel they’ve been able to focus fully on their careers. I would say that now is the time to really own your personal development - if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

WUN was launched to give women the skills and confidence they need to build lasting, fulfilling careers in the utility sector. During the pandemic, the organisation has been hosting weekly video conferences aimed at connecting, sharing and supporting members with industry knowledge and personal skills development.

Participants have shared job seeking advice, including tips for attending virtual interviews and updating CVs and social media profiles. There have also been sessions on managing difficult conversations and dealing with stress.

Monks shared some of these insights at Women on Water, which, despite being a virtual event will still encourage networking.

She said: “The best way to make connections is to have your camera on. It can be scary but seeing other smiling faces is a sure way to get people talking - and make the most of any short breakout session for small groups to get together and chat. Women on Water is a fantastic way to keep people connected and it is always reassuring to see there is a large group of like-minded people out there.”

Now in its third year, Women on Water aims to support women in the industry with their career and personal development by presenting them with tools, tips, advice and case studies, all underpinned by a message of empowerment and progression.

British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “Our 2020 Women on Water event comes at a time when women in our industry may be feeling insecure in the workplace due to the extra pressures placed upon them by Covid-19. We aim to provide them with ongoing support to evaluate and reshape their career in a sector with a weighty gender imbalance, as well as build resilient mental health and wellbeing.

“I am looking forward to welcoming delegates from across the industry, hearing from our fantastic speakers and sharing personal stories and experiences at a time when mutual support and collaboration is particularly important.”

 

*Research carried out by the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance

**Survey carried out by charity and campaign group Pregnant then Screwed

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