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Six things being done to tackle gender imbalance at Sellafield Ltd

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Here they share their experiences and what they’re doing to try and make Sellafield Ltd where everyone can perform at their best.

Role models like you

Dr Donna Connor is leading the attract workstream. This aims to ensure Sellafield Ltd attract the very best candidates for its roles.

I want people to be able to look round the organisation and see people like them, succeeding and progressing. I want them to be able to chat to these people to understand their career pathway, passions and interests and the choices they made.

You have to be the best you can be, and you have to have the confidence to believe that. A strong role model, mentor and supporter can help you believe that.

The attraction workstream is all about ensuring we encourage people to the company and the sector. We want as diverse a workforce as we can, and this means attracting the interest of the best people.

We want to inspire those who have never considered a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to do so. Doing this is a constant piece of work.

Conscious inclusion

Flo Hanlon leads the recruit workstream, focused on ensuring our recruitment processes provide equity for female candidates.

I'm quite early into my Sellafield Ltd career, but in that time I've seen and researched gender balance. One of the first things I noticed was a real lack of women managers.

I wanted to get involved in our work, so that I could help women coming through, just like I've been helped.

One of the things I've seen at Sellafield is some unconscious bias – where people have made judgements or put barriers in place without even realising. Wouldn't it be better to be an organisation where we have conscious inclusion – where we don't assume female colleagues are junior or don't have the skills we need.

Mentoring and support to ensure everyone feel included

Dawn Watson is leading work on retention, development and progression. She wants to see an organisation where everyone feels included and where everyone gets the opportunities they deserve.

It’s only as my career has progressed to more senior roles that I have noticed gender bias. I think this is because at this level things are more competitive, and sadly there are fewer women.

Because of this, you don't have the same network that men tend to. Rightly or wrongly, you can't go to the pub with a male colleague for an informal work discussion without other people making assumptions in a way they wouldn't about two men catching up.

This is why the gender balance group, and the 'Women in' networks and mentoring programmes are so important in bringing people together.

I want everyone to feel comfortable they're not being disadvantaged because of their gender. It's not exactly radical, is it?"

Levelling the playing field

Dr Katherine Eilbeck is leading the learn workstream, making sure we learn from women’s experiences.

We're on a road to equality, but I don't think we're there yet. That's why we sometimes need to give women some extra support.

We've recognised International Women's Day here at Sellafield Ltd for some time. While I think this is a good thing, I do worry that some people don't agree, or think we've gone too far.

The reality is that we have a world, a sector and a company which are set-up to provide more opportunities for men to succeed than women. To redress the balance, we need to make sure we're looking for and developing people with the right skills and competencies – these aren't necessarily the ones we've traditionally looked for in the past.

Here at Sellafield, we do difficult, important work. We need to choose the best person for the job, regardless of their background. We don’t always do that.

Having the best talent means we'll do the best job, and that's good for all of us.

Education, education, education

Sharon Parker-Brannan and Naomi Mawby are leading our align work, to make sure we’re working in tandem with other organisations and networks.

Sharon said:

We want to make sure we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck.

Our role is all about making sure we understand the challenges to gender balance and do all we can to address these. These include things like the motherhood penalty (where a woman’s career stalls after having a child), good girl syndrome (where women are conditioned to accept things rather than challenge them), and a lack of confidence.

This is no mean feat, but I'm confident we can do this, and believe that educating, highlighting the impact, and suggesting corrective measures is the key. We’ve already made positive moves towards this in the project management profession, and this learning can be used more widely.

Naomi said:

Our retrievals lead team is made up of some great role models (male and female) and in terms of gender balance, 50% are female, this is a real example of the head of value stream role modelling the value of diversity and promoting inclusion. This is definitely progress, but there is still more we need to do.

I strongly believe that everyone should have a working environment where they can build confidence and reach their full potential, in whatever profession or area they choose.

In the early part of my career I had a particularly low moment when some of my work had been sabotaged deliberately. The tenacious part of my character meant I just worked even harder.

I may have won that small battle, but it made the working environment even more difficult, and the learning point is that I didn't challenge the behaviours so as not to draw attention to the situation. We all have to speak out.


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