Back in 2020, as the first COVID lockdown was announced, one of our Directors and his mentee were having a catch-up. At that time, she was the only female in our Cardiff office and we were aware the COVID pandemic had the potential to heighten the feeling of remoteness. During the mentoring session, it was recognised that this female engineer, who was a working mother, didn’t have the means to easily connect with others so the idea for a virtual women’s group emerged.
The idea was initially as a means to put our virtual arms around our colleague and bring her into the wider Scitech family but, when launched, the virtual group had evolved to become a support group that could unite all of Scitech’s female workforce and empower them to share experiences and ideas while provide support for each other.
Nurturing our female talent
Two years later, the group is an established feature in the Scitech events calendar with meetings held every quarter. Its purpose is to nurture our female talent, ensure that they are supported to pursue leadership roles, if that is the path they wish their career to take, and make sure that their unique health and well-being needs are met. It also offers an opportunity to get together to build friendships – meetings are now face-to-face with those who can’t be there in person also able to join virtually.
The group has tackled subjects such as how we ensure our female staff have access to women’s toilets on our construction sites and making sure there is appropriate clothing for women. Topics are varied and include women’s health, menopause, attracting women to engineering and construction careers, improving working life for women, unconscious bias in the workplace and gender bias in recruitment. This has resulted in positive changes to some of our family orientated polices and greater appreciation of what women might be looking for when applying for roles at Scitech.
Inspirational guest speakers
The latest meeting, held in December, featured a guest speaker. Natasha Westbury, a senior leader at HP, who was invited to share her experiences of working in the IT and telecommunications sectors – both of which are male orientated. She shared how she has benefitted from being part of a women’s network, and how it helped her to achieve success and provided support during the past 8 years working in senior roles.
Natasha shared how it was important to her that she selected an employer that had stated its ambition to gender parity; HP became the first Fortune 100 Tech company to commit to Gender Parity in Leadership in May 2021. Currently more than 30% of HP’s leaders are women (which is nearly double the industry’s benchmark). Natasha adds that her career hasn’t always been easy being female and juggling the demands of working in these environments.
Speaking at the Women at Scitech meeting, Natasha said: “I am proud to say that, in 2022, I work for a company that openly understands that business performance improves when we attract, retain, and develop women. We still have a way to go to facilitate gender inclusion to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace, which is why I am passionate about contributing to discussion of these issues”.
Natasha believes that encouraging and supporting women to pursue their career goals and leadership aspirations in a community enables change, and is a responsibility that everyone should uphold.
Emma Dawas, HR Manager at Scitech, said: “We would like to thank Natasha for generously giving her time to share her experiences and provide such an inspirational talk to our staff. We are proud to have several women on our leadership board at Scitech and hope to further increase this as we support our female staff to progress and reach senior roles.
“Through our Women at Scitech group, and our wider diversity and inclusion work, we will continue to support and nurture our female staff. We look forward to inviting other female role models to share their experience and further build the network for our staff.”