BBC Breakfast – inspiring women into business and sustainability

Posted in: Eco-friendly

Posted on: 28.07.2017

In August, I was proud to appear on BBC Breakfast in the third part of a summer series talking to inspirational businesswomen from around the UK.

It was great to be asked on to talk about my background, how I went about setting up Good Energy and what it was like joining a market like the energy industry.

My story

When I set up Good Energy in 1999, it was an interesting time for the energy industry and there were very few alternatives to the Big Six.

At university, my passion for creating a cleaner, greener future for the energy sector grew and I saw setting up my own business as the only way that I could kick start us into thinking about a low carbon world. Compared to talking to politicians or policy makers, having your own business allows you to do things, be creative and work with fantastic people.

Teaching maths and physics had given me the confidence to speak up and challenge the way that the Big Six were thinking. Rather than just seeing customers as meters at the end of wires or all of our energy coming from big power stations, it was always my view that we could do things differently.

Giving consumers the power to choose a smaller supplier, create their own smart home and generate their own renewable energy is how we’ve always looked at things at Good Energy. It’s my hope that this is the future of the energy industry and that we are now on the right track to achieve that.

Women in energy

In 1999, I was very much a lone female in a male-dominated sector. Back then, the entire renewables industry could hold their meetings in a room above a pub in west London and almost no women were in attendance.

Even now in the UK, just 9% of board seats in the top 89 energy companies are held by women, compared with around 26% for FTSE 100 companies.

As a recent piece in the Financial Times highlighted, the energy industry hasn’t been as good as other sectors at attracting more diversity into its mix.

But we can change this.

Earlier this month, I spoke at ‘She is Sustainable’, a conference that aims to inspire young women interested in a career within the sustainability sector.

With pay inequality in the news and some people expressing how unhappy they are with having a female ‘Doctor Who’, it was refreshing to see first-hand just how far diversity in the sustainability sector has come.

The power of diversity

For me, the sustainability sector is one of the most gender diverse industries out there. It’s an industry that I think particularly benefits from diversity given the multi-faceted issues faced and the broad range of expertise and perspectives required to tackle them effectively.

Diversity allows problems to be seen in multiple ways - take the complex and inter-related issue of climate change as an example. Without diversity, our solutions would be two dimensional and set to fail.

A 50:50 split

To celebrate International Women’s Day in March 2017, I wrote about the importance of a 50:50 split, what diversity can bring to an organisation, and why I think the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals - which are a big focus for Good Energy - will help with gender equality and set an example for the energy industry.

I’m the first to admit that we’ve not always been perfect at Good Energy. Until 2010, despite being a female led company, our most senior team was well-balanced but the rest of the company wasn’t such a good story.

Since then we have made fantastic progress and are now proud to be a gender balanced company.

A positive future

Events like ‘She is Sustainable’ are, in my mind, essential if we are to continue to diversify this sector even further. Seeing so many young women who want to use their skills for good and really help to transform our world is brilliant to see and, personally, is one of my biggest inspirations.

I hope that sharing my own experience will inspire other women to follow their passion, take entrepreneurial initiative, and do what they love.

And with groups like WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), the STEMettes, and POWERful Women leading the way on getting more women into science, sustainability and energy, I see a bright future for a truly diverse sector.

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