With World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Developmenthaving taken place earlier this week, I felt inspired to tell you about our own commitment to provide an equal and inclusive environment in which our diverse and talented workforce can fulfil their ambitions.
What diversity is and why it is so important to us
Someone once said that ‘The most universal quality is diversity’1, and I agree. While we can belong to a particular gender, religion or race, no two people are the same because we each have a unique set of opinions and values framed by the individual lives we lead. So with a workforce that totals more than 36,000, it’s really important that we have practices and policies in place that ensure Centrica is a great place to work with an environment that it tolerant, inclusive and fulfilling. We strive to achieve this ambition not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because we recognise the important contribution our diverse workforce makes to our continued business success – for example, they secure energy supplies to keep our homes warm and well lit and deliver innovative products and services that meet the varied needs of our customers.
Below are just a few of our activities that will help ensure that we attract, develop and retain our gifted and diverse workforce.
Breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’
Recent research has shown that women continue to be employed in less senior roles2. This is demonstrated by the finding that a man starting his career in a FTSE 100 company is four and a half times more likely to make it to the Executive Committee than his female counterpart3. Here at Centrica we believe that women, like all of our employees, should be developed and promoted on merit. We therefore have strong female representation at all levels throughout our business, with women making up around 27% of the Board, 26% of senior management and 29% of all other employees. And I’m glad to say that we expect the level of female leadership to rise further this year.
We also support various initiatives that promote gender diversity. Our Pearls Programme identifies women across the business that could benefit from additional coaching, networking and support to raise confidence, capabilities and gain greater control over the choices they make and their future careers. The aim of this programme is supported by Centrica’s Women’s Network, which holds events to inspire and educate women at all levels throughout the business. British Gas has also just completed a gender diversity pilot in its Service and Repair business, the findings of which will help us break-down barriers to a historically male-dominated vocation. Furthermore, we are working to create sustainable social and economic change on a national scale through our engagement with the Women’s Business Council, who make recommendations to government and UK businesses on the value women bring to the workplace.
Guarding against ageism
We welcome the benefits of a multi-generational workforce and actively recruit people from a wide range of ages. Our award-winning graduate training and work placement programmes provide opportunities for young people starting their careers, while the removal of upper age limits on our apprenticeship schemes ensures that we benefit from the skillsets of both younger and older workers. Some of our older workers also share the depth of their professional expertise and life experiences by undertaking mentoring roles that help us secure our future talent pipeline.
Enabling better balancing of personal duties
We recognise our employees have important and diverse lives outside of work so we provide creative and flexible ways of working. This approach can enable working parents or carers, for example, to balance their family commitments alongside work requirements.
Wherever possible we provide flexible ways of working such as working part-time or having alternative work hours. Our progressive stance has earned external recognition, with Centrica recently shortlisted for the ‘Best for Flexible Working’ at the Working Families Award due in June.
Our 800-strong Carers Network also provides our carer employees with the help and support they need to juggle work and care duties as part of their daily lives.
While we are dedicated to eliminating discrimination in the workplace, we recognise that there is always more we can do to ensure Centrica is a great place to work. We will therefore continue our current momentum and identify new opportunities to enhance diversity and to ensure that inclusion is embedded in everything that we do.
1 Michel de Montaigne, French Essayist
2 Ethical Performance, Salary Survey: Women losing out in CSR salary stakes, p.7 (May 2014)