The recent interview with Dr Ollie Folayan in A Word About Wind struck a nerve. We all know that the offshore wind sector, with its heavy emphasis on engineering and marine skills, hasn’t been as active as it could have been in attracting people from diverse ethnic backgrounds – the culture of an industry is, after all, very much a reflection of the constituent parts. We are all acutely aware of the same homogenous faces popping up during interviews in industry publications. This doesn’t help to draw and retain a diverse workforce into offshore wind and risks normalising poor behaviours as they are not recognised or acknowledged. Every person from a minority background has examples of micro-aggressions and unconscious bias they’ve experienced during their career.
The moral and business imperatives for change have never been stronger however. Numerous studies have shown the strong link between greater diversity and inclusion and better business performance. Ever since the Offshore Wind Sector Deal was agreed in 2019, the industry in the UK has been mobilised into action to ensure that the workforce is as representative as it can be. The Investment in Talent group was formed by the Offshore Wind Industry Council and RenewableUK when the Sector Deal was signed. It is made up of a diverse group of representatives from all parts of the offshore wind value chain. This group has started a journey in response to the challenge to ensure greater diversity in the offshore wind sector in the UK. It has set targets in terms of gender and ethnic diversity for the industry to meet by 2030. It has also published a Best Practice Guide for Diversity and Inclusion which is freely available to download. This guide contains some excellent practical solutions and case studies for how to increase diversity and inclusion; it focuses on Engagement & Attraction, Recruitment, Progression, Retention, Leadership, Culture and Intersectionality. When it comes to visibility, RenewableUK has just relaunched its industry-first Switch List with links to gender and ethnically-diverse speakers for conferences. In this way, we hope that the next generation of recruits will be able to see more role models like them in senior positions. This is now more important than ever given the increasingly frantic battle for offshore wind talent. One only has to look at the increased exposure that women’s football has in the UK following the European Championships to see that greater visibility leads to greater participation.
Despite these actions, we recognise that the industry has to do more. Changing cultures within organisations takes time and requires a variety of actions. In some stubborn cases, quotas may be the answer. Setting gender and ethnic targets for senior management teams is critically important but is often not followed. Mentors and sponsors within companies are crucial to enable diverse talent to progress. It takes real leadership to challenge the norm and change the culture so that people from all backgrounds feel included in a company.
The initiatives the Investment in Talent group has taken for the offshore wind sector in the UK are world-leading and are equally applicable to other countries which are starting out in this fast growing sector. As an industry, we are cautiously optimistic that this recognition of diversity as a force for good has started to sink in. And this can only mean good things for the resilience of the offshore wind sector globally as it seeks to become a major tool in the fight against climate change.
Ranjit Mene, Ethnicity Champion, Investment in Talent Group, OWIC & Renewable UK