Salix celebrates the achievements of women in the sustainability and energy industry this International Women’s Day!
The theme for the 2021 International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’. As we are nearing a year of experiencing life during a pandemic and adapting to changes in lifestyle and work, we celebrate the resilience of the sustainability and energy industry and the women who are making a positive difference.
We spoke to Kawun Williams, Energy Manager at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to discuss her career in the sustainability industry and provide tips for women looking to enter this expanding industry.
Kawun Williams, Energy Manager at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Kawun is the Energy Manager for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, working towards implementing sustainability strategies and change management towards delivering the Trust’s goal to be net-zero by 2040.
Her education included reading a Bachelors of Science in Environment, Economics and Ecology as well as a Master’s degree in Environmental Management. Kawun says: “I’ve always had an interest in sustainability, climate change and the environment from a young age which is why I’ve followed through those subjects at university to where I am today.”
“The topic which became one of my main areas focus during my education and career was climate change, it was an area I wanted to be part of, to do my bit and make a difference for the planet and future generations.”
“In my role as an Energy Manager at the Trust, I believe the key skills important to this role are strong communication and interpersonal skills. This is because sustainability and energy cover such as wide topic, I’m required to speak to people at all levels and departments from HR, IT and engineering, listening to their views on the agenda.”
“I’m passionate about cutting carbon emissions and reducing waste and I enjoy watching how sustainability campaigns can result in a change in individuals’ behaviour towards energy usage and make a collective difference in improving the sustainability of the Trust. For example, in my career, I have run a 12-month programme as part of a national campaign involving competitions and quizzes to encourage a discussion around waste, transport, and water as part of change management.”
Kawun also spoke about her previous experience and using her passion for sustainability and her communications skills to engage several stakeholders and secure funding to deliver a project from start to finish, an achievement she is very proud of that culminated all her learning and experience to that point. The project involved installing ten biomass heating systems in care homes, replacing the electric heating in eight and oil heating systems in two. This improved efficiencies and the overall comfort level for the care homes.
A woman in the energy and sustainability industry
“When I first started working in the sector 15 years ago, it was male-dominated. The industry mainly consisted of engineers and surveyors, this was evident when attending industry conferences and networking events over the years. However, throughout my career, I have found more women are entering this field with a passion. More women seem to have joined with a similar non-engineering background as me, and I have found as a result they are bringing a new skill set to the industry, with the ability to engage in the conversation using non-technical language, which is easy for all stakeholders to understand.”
“Over the past 15 years, I have seen the industry expand and can see it is still growing rapidly. This has been in part down to new climate change and sustainability policies being introduced. The industry has also seen a rapid rise in interest from the private sector, with a focus on reducing operational costs and also increasing pressure from their consumers they are having to openly demonstrate how they operate responsibly.”
Issues facing women in the industry
“I see the biggest issue as maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Women tend to take on more responsibilities at home and as a result, their career may suffer. For example, this has been more apparent while working from home during the pandemic when schools have been closed. I found there was a struggle between striking a balance between working, caring for my daughter, and home responsibilities during this period.
“This can potentially result in women experiencing burn out more than their male colleagues. My advice for women who are experiencing this is to engage in their hobbies to take quality time out for themselves. For example, I enjoy running and find taking even 30 minutes out of my day to run can help me to feel centred, and as we’re allowed to meet outdoors during the pandemic running with a friend allows me to focus on myself.”
Advice to women looking to enter the industry
“If you have a passion for sustainability, give it a go. By following your interests you’ll learn a lot more from the job, experience more job satisfaction and a sense of achievement. If you’re looking to make a difference and be part of something big then I recommend the energy industry. The industry is very welcoming and open to all.”