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Achieving Gender Diversity and Greater Profits Through Mentoring

April 14th, 2021

Only 28% of the energy sectors’ current workforce identify as women. So how can businesses attract and engage a more diverse workforce? A recent study by McKinsey, showed that executive teams with great gender diversity are 21% more likely to generate better profits. 

We met with Mandy Cheffirs, Channel Development Manager, and Felicity Clark, Head of Operations, from Smartest Energy, to find out their advice on gender diversity in energy, and what changes they’ve witnessed in the industry throughout their careers. 

Felicity Clark – Head of Operations

Key to Felicity’s success during her 18-year career in energy, has been the presence of inspirational female mentors. Amazing women who inspired, challenged, and helped push her career forward. When she first started in energy, a mentor helped her realise that, as a woman, you can forge a career in energy; that there’s no glass ceiling unless you want there to be. Mentors provided her with the tools to realise her potential and achieve her goals.

Felicity has taken the example of her mentors and has now become a mentor to other women, helping them to grow their careers and achieve their goals. She recently helped a young female sales professional at Smartest Energy, who aspired to move into HR. During nine months of ongoing development and support, she was able to assist her in making the transition and achieving her goal.

The Smartest Energy team in Australia has achieved an above-average industry ratio for women – with a female workforce of 38% – through successful leadership and mentoring.  Felicity’s advice to women is to “get a mentor, and always push outside the box”.

Mandy Cheffirs – Channel Development Manager

Mandy has worked in the energy sector for 15 years and has seen many changes in gender diversity during that time. She started in Mass-Market then stepped up to the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) space at a time when the workforce was all “men in dark suits”. 

Fast forward to today, and it’s a completely different place with a much higher ratio of women. Gender in C&I, is a pretty even split now – is it an accident or deliberate? How has change come about? Some organisations have set targets for gender diversity. But many women aren’t happy to be the token female. So, what’s the key to success in gaining greater gender diversity? 

Several years ago, a young woman in Mandy’s team was pregnant, and couldn’t afford to take maternity leave, so she came back to work after six weeks. Mandy set up a breastfeeding room and helped her come back to work early. Mandy gathered together the “sisterhood” in the business, to support her, raise her profile, and get people to change the narrative to embrace mothers coming back to work. 

Several years later, we see some of the positive opportunities COVID has brought about for women. Greater flexibility, working from home and remote working options have helped women, particularly those with care-giving responsibilities. Some women are able to work mornings or evenings rather than the standard nine to five. Although being in a customer-facing role this might not work, and there are times when you may need to come into the office. Mandy works remotely in Adelaide for a Sydney-based office. She says there have always been trailblazers in the industry. She’s seeing more women opening up their own businesses and consultancies in energy and would love to see more. 

Mandy’s advice to women in energy is – “get a really good mentor”.

So what are some things you can do to source a mentor in the energy sector? What more can you do to be championing change for a more diverse workforce?

Mentoring Programs 

The Clean Energy Council offers a Women in Renewables Mentoring Program, helping women in the renewable energy sector form connections, achieve career goals and build lasting relationships across the industry. The program matches women in varying stages of their careers with senior mentors from across the renewable energy industry. Providing them with the guidance and support they need to progress their career in energy. 

Professional Development Scholarships

The Clean Energy Council also offer two annual scholarships for women to enable professional development for women in clean energy. Championing and enabling women at all organisational levels, to undertake the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Foundations of Directorship course. They have also partnered with the Monash Business School to offer a scholarship to complete Your Leadership Voice: Women in Focus program.

Women in industry Support Groups:

For women in solar energy, there is also an “Australian Women in Solar Energy” (WISE) group on LinkedIn. The goal of the group is to create a community that encourages skilled women to join and enjoy successful careers in the energy industry. Advancing Women in the solar energy industry and promoting diversity through: 

  • Education
  • Capacity building
  • Advocacy
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Networking and events.  

Grants for female entrepreneurs:

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has launched a government grant available for female entrepreneurs, start-ups and leaders. The grant is designed to advance the careers and opportunities for women in the workforce. 

Growing a gender diverse team

There are many benefits for businesses in achieving greater gender diversity in the energy sector. If you’d like more support on growing diverse teams, our team can connect female candidates with businesses looking to grow and enhance the careers of women in energy. 

For more great insights, tips, news and career opportunities follow Advance Careers on LinkedIn. If you’ve got a great story or case study to share on how you or your business is driving progress in the energy sector, we’d love to hear from you. Reach us at: [email protected]