New project launched to boost number of women working in offshore wind

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The Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) have announced a new joint research project which aims to tackle the gender imbalance in offshore wind by ensuring that more women enter the sector.

The project, “Clearing the Pathway for Women in Wind” is part of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal agreed by industry and Government, which includes a commitment to ensure that women make up at least 33% of the workforce by 2030, with a 40% as a stretch target. Currently the number stands at 18%.

Researchers from UEA will examine factors which affect the entry, progress and retention of women working in the industry. For example, ethnicity, nationality, age, sexuality, disability, class, culture and religion.

These are known as “intersectional” factors, which are social identities to that of an individual. These types of factors interact with each other to create advantages and disadvantages in various situations.

The Project Lead for UEA is Dr Jade Stalker, Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at Norwich Business School, who will be working with colleagues including Konstantinos Chalvatzis, Professor of Sustainable Energy Business.

Dr Stalker commented: “We aim to shed light on a topic that has been thoroughly investigated, yet still a pressing issue throughout the energy sector, by using the analytical perspective of intersectionality.

“An intersectional lens towards the offshore wind workforce is crucial in unpicking the lived experiences of women. We must learn from the personal experiences of privilege/oppression, advantage/disadvantage and inclusion/exclusion.

“Together with a cross examination of the best practice and improvement practice cases, the end goal is to create something practical for the industry. We firmly believe opportunities exist for the offshore wind sector to lead gender balance across the energy divisions.”

The first phase of the work, a scoping study as the first step in a long research project, will run from now until October. This will include interviewing people working at all levels within the industry, as well as experts in STEM education, based mainly in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The second phase, which will begin in October and run for a year, will focus on how and why particular programmes, polices and initiatives fail or work. It will lead to the publication of a report setting out recommendations on how to address the gender imbalance in the sector and build a new framework to foster diversity.

The project builds on work already underway by OWIC, including the publication of the industry’s Best Practice Guide on Diversity and Inclusion, first released in 2020 and updated last year. This online resource helps offshore wind companies to measure and address issues of ethnicity and gender balance across their workforce.

OWIC’s People & Skills workstream is led by RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Melanie Onn, who commented: “Boosting diversity throughout the offshore wind sector is vital if we want to attract as wide a range of talented people as possible to enable us to scale up fast to tackle climate change and increase the UK’s energy security.

“Understanding the challenges and concerns of women in this ground-breaking study will help us to remove barriers and find solutions. We’re particularly keen to see more women taking up engineering and technical roles, as they’re currently under-represented in these fields.”