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Why more women are applying for manual roles at Thames Water

Monday 22nd June 2020 08:00

Female engineer Rachael Trigg at Chieveley Sewage Works

More and more women are applying for manual frontline roles at Thames Water after the company changed the ‘masculine’ wording of its job adverts. 

When advertising for sewage works technicians last year, Britain’s biggest water company found only eight per cent of applications were from women. 

To investigate why, the company used an online tool which finds hidden implications in language. It highlighted phrases like “competitive”, “confident” and “champion” as being ‘masculine coded’, meaning they subconsciously put many women off applying.  

Thames Water changed the wording to include phrases like “we welcome people who want to learn and be team players” in a bid to further build on its reputation as a diverse workplace.

The company is already a Disability Confident Leader and a Stonewall Diversity Champion, and last year signed the Armed Forces Covenant which shows a commitment to employing ex-servicemen and women. 

Since the launch of the new advert for £13-an-hour Process Technicians, the number of applications from women rose to 46 per cent, including successful new starter Rachael Trigg. The 24-year-old mum is now responsible for maintenance and repairs at Chieveley Sewage Works in Newbury, Berkshire. 

“I got made redundant, saw this on CV Library and really liked the sound of it,” she said. “It’s general maintenance around the site, fixing any issues that arise. 

“I’m mum to Henry who’s 10 months’ old. I start at 7.30am and finish at 3.30pm so I get to spend some quality time with him in the evening. It fits in really well with my circumstances. 

“There might be certain things I can’t do, like heavy lifting, but we’re a team so we help each other out. I don’t see anything here that makes it a male-specific role. Women are really missing out if they think a job like this isn’t for them.  

“I work outside as part of a great team – and I get to drive a Landrover Defender. My neighbours are all really jealous. Thames Water is a stable company with lots of options to progress. I like the fact they’re keen for you to progress, they seem very proactive in that regard.” 

Pablo Stevens, Chieveley site manager, said: “The sex of someone is irrelevant. If they can get the job done, that’s all that matters. I would say to other women that we’re a fantastically diverse company and the opportunity to progress is amazing.” 

The drive to recruit more females into operational roles was led by Thames Water’s Women’s Network which brings together women from across the business to celebrate achievements and campaign for change, and comes ahead of International Women In Engineering Day on June 23. 

Thames Water’s Lucia Farrance, who led the Women In Ops Recruitment Project, said: “In order to bring about real change, women need more seats at the table and I am really proud that this initiative is starting to achieve just that. There is a huge pool of untapped female talent out there and it’ is great to see some of that showing through in the recruits coming into the frontline teams at Thames Water. 

“We are extremely passionate about championing the importance and benefits of a diverse and equal workforce. Gender should never be a barrier.”