Talking the language of women - Katie Milligan

Like organisations across the country, Openreach’s workforce isn’t as representative as it should be. We are determined to change that.

Katie Milligan, chair of Openreach Scotland. Picture: Jeff Holmes

The business has taken a long hard look at how to challenge engineering stereotypes wherever they arise, but particularly in our recruitment processes.

Earlier this year, we undertook research with linguistic specialists Linguistic Landscapes and gender bias expert Dr Chris Begeny from Exeter University which revealed that women were 50 per cent less likely to consider roles that had a coded gender bias.

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Since then, we’ve made a conscious effort to overhaul the way we look at adverts and applications. That includes significant changes to the way we advertise jobs, which has helped to drive big improvements in the number of women coming into new roles in 2021.

Male-dominated industries like engineering have traditionally been challenging for women. The research we did into the language barriers that impact female job applicants underlined this and showed us the fundamental role that inclusive and considered word choice plays in attracting the right people.

Despite four in five women admitting they wouldn’t consider working in engineering, more than half were interested in an entry-level engineering role once it had been rewritten in a consciously-unbiased way.

As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the number of female recruits across Scotland this year. The company is recruiting some 275 people into field and desk-based roles in Scotland in the current financial year, and to date 17 per cent of the intake is female – a statistic that in previous years stood in single digits. Remarkable progress.

Engineering is a varied, stimulating and valuable career and it’s really important that we present it in ways that encourages as diverse a workforce as possible.

We’re not suggesting these surface changes alone will make all the difference, but they’re an important part of our wider mission to attract the inclusive workforce we need to face future challenges.

We’re driving change to put our values at the heart of what we do and while we still have a lot of work ahead, we are encouraged to see a significantly higher percentage of women joining our Scottish workforce this year.

Openreach is being transparent about where we are and what we want to achieve. We’ve set ambitious targets and plans that support our journey and will regularly share the progress we’re making. We want everyone who works here to feel fully accepted for who they are and valued for their contribution.

To that end, we have also recently published our diversity and inclusion commitments, which include a commitment to ensure 20 per cent of trainee engineer recruits and 50 per cent of external hires into management will be women by 2025.

This journey has taught us that language makes a lasting impression. Openreach has wonderful staff working tirelessly to keep people across the country connected and enhancing opportunities in Scotland’s most remote and rural communities. We want to make it crystal clear there are opportunities here for people from all backgrounds and we will continue to push to make that representative workforce a reality.

Katie Milligan, Chair Openreach’s Scotland Board

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