As we reflect on International Women’s Day, where this year’s theme was “an equal world is an enabled world”, we are reminded that we are in an exciting age where diversity is beginning to be celebrated around the world and across all professions.
There is a newfound awareness to the benefits of diversity that’s opening up even more opportunities around business operations and culture. Diversity comes in many forms - and gender is no exception.
Great strides have been made in the female labour force since the beginning of the 20th century. It was not long ago that women were expected to only remain in the workforce until they were married. Whenever they did go to find work, they faced discrimination, limited job opportunities, and low wages. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, in 1901, women comprised only 13 per cent of the total labour force, employed primarily in “female” occupations like dressmaking, teaching, and housekeeping. In 1994, women comprised 43 per cent of the total labour force – a 30 per cent increase – but still mostly within teaching, service, sales, clerical and health-related fields.
The utility sector has not escaped this reality. Traditionally viewed as a “man’s world”, this pervasive attitude has been one of the challenges contributing to few women working in the utility and trades business. To combat this, we all have to be a part of the change, creating a modern, positive and inviting culture that empowers women of today and tomorrow.
Thankfully, there is a growing amount of research on utilities leading the way for gender diversity. In a study conducted by Ernst & Young, the top 20 gender-diverse utilities were compared to the bottom 20. Data revealed that the top companies in gender-diversity significantly outperformed the companies in the bottom 20 in ROE (return on equity). Evidence like this only reinforces the value that women bring to the business.
Currently, women represent approximately 20 to 25 per cent of the overall energy sector within advanced industrialized nations. Of that percentage, only six per cent are technical positions, and less than one per cent are top management positions.
At Hydro Ottawa, we’re proud of our talented female employees and we’re excited about challenging the status quo by fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, and by encouraging more women to work in the trades and the energy sector. From information technology roles to line worker and engineering roles, we have many incredible female employees who are making a difference not only to the company and the sector as a whole but to the next generation of powerful women entering the workforce. With each of them, we are getting one step closer to a gender equal world.