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In interview with…Ruth Groom, Hydro Tasmania

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Ruth Groom

Diversity and gender equality in the energy sector are vital for driving innovation, fostering inclusive cultures, and addressing complex challenges. Despite progress, women remain underrepresented in key roles within the industry. Promoting diversity not only enhances organizational performance but also brings diverse perspectives to the table, leading to more creative solutions and better decision-making.

In honour of International Women’s Day, this month we spoke to Ruth Groom, EGM People – Culture + Engagement at Hydro Tasmania. Ruth provided insight into her extensive career, and insightful thoughts on the current state and future hopes for gender equity within the energy sector.

1. With your impressive experience in the energy industry, can you give us an overview on your experience as a woman within the sector and the challenges you may have faced?

I’ve had a diverse and thoroughly enjoyable career in energy and climate over more than 20 years. Along the way, I’ve embraced change and through that, I’ve been able to take advantage of a number of opportunities.

Navigating my career alongside family life has not always been straightforward but I have been well supported through this time. The most significant change that has helped is flexible working. I have noticed a genuine shift in the ‘jacket on the back of the chair’ mentality – that you had to be in the office to be contributing. Hybrid and flexible working have fundamentally changed this for me and allowed me to balance work and life far more effectively.

One area I believe still requires focus is part-time roles. Traditionally, many women seek part-time hours to help balance career and care of young children. But there has been a tendency to not de-scope a role when it moves from full-time to part-time. I experienced this firsthand, working many years part-time. My roles were not designed for part-time work. I found myself often trying to squeeze everything into part-time hours which can be unsustainable. It’s an area that I believe still needs to be proactively addressed.

While my career experience has been largely positive, I’m conscious that this is not the case for many women. I’ve mentored and counselled numerous women through various career experiences and stages – from negotiating pay rises and difficult performance reviews, to parental leave and menopause. My advice, consistently, is to be your own greatest advocate. It can be powerful if you have someone advocating for you, but don’t underestimate your individual influence.

2. What initiatives have you seen that have been implemented in the Australian energy and utilities sector to promote gender diversity and support the advancement of women in leadership roles? Do you feel these are beneficial?

I have observed many positive changes to promote gender diversity and support women in their career progression, and there is still a long way to go. Energy is a technical industry. We need to continue to encourage more women into STEM careers. We need to broaden the pipeline and also value broader skill sets in roles.

In my current role as Executive General Manager, People, Culture & Engagement, I have functional responsibility for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a team lead by Lucy Aird who has been recognised by the industry for her work in this area. This has afforded me the great privilege of being involved in creating organisational support and change for a number of policy and program changes that are bringing about a genuine shift.

The Hydro Tasmania group was an early adopter of gender-neutral parental leave. That means both parents can access paid leave after the birth of their child, creating more balance and equitable sharing of the care of young children.

As many in our sector have done, we introduced superannuation on unpaid parental leave, addressing some of the financial implications of longer periods of unpaid leave which tends to impact women disproportionately.

Recruitment practices are changing to encourage more women to apply. Through our endorsed partnership with Work180, our Work180 employer profile can be accessed throughout recruitment processes. This provides a safe and transparent means to research and review our benefits and entitlements, given that research tells us females in particular are less likely to ask about benefits that are important to them as part of recruitment processes.

We are also looking at the accessibility of our recruitment advertising, the focus of interview questions and our recruitment panels are gender balanced.

There are a number of other initiatives occurring that are getting to the underlying issues. A key one for me is reporting on the gender pay gap. This is bringing attention to the issue and seeking to understand and address the societal, sectoral and organisational contributors to this.

3. How do you feel women in Australia perceive their career opportunities and challenges within the energy and utilities industry in comparison to their male counterparts? Is this something that has affected your career and decision-making?

I can only speak from personal experience that while it is still a male dominated sector, there are wonderful women and men working hard to achieve positive outcomes in the energy transition and in gender equality.

I had the privilege of listening to Anna Collyer, Chair of the AEMC speak recently. She highlighted that the energy transition will require a huge increase in the number and breadth of roles in the industry – from engineers, project managers and lawyers to IT professionals, community engagement, social and environmental impact, commercial and more.

The opportunities that come with this are enormous. The work we do now to address some of the systemic challenges in attracting women to the sector is vital to ensuring there is balance and equity as the transition continues. I am proud to be a part of that change.

4. What strategies or programs are being introduced by major energy companies in Australia to address the gender pay gap within the sector?

When we look at the gender pay gap and the drivers, they are societal and industry challenges. One of the best ways to accelerate change is to ensure cross-industry collaboration. In June last year, a Champions of Change Coalition Energy Group was established. It is made up of representatives from across Australia’s energy sector including energy generation and production, distribution, retail and resources businesses. Members come together to work within and across their organisations to achieve inclusive gender equality and a significant and sustainable increase in the representation of women in leadership. I am so heartened by this work and the way the initiative is being embraced by energy leaders.

Pipeline programs are critical. Australia’s labour market is highly gender-segregated by industry and occupation and this is certainly the case in the energy industry. That’s why school programs aimed at encouraging more women to pursue careers in energy are being implemented.

Just one example is Girls in Power. A free, three-day career exposure event designed to demystify careers in the power industry for young Tasmanian women in Years 9 and 10. Girls in Power is proudly backed by Hydro Tasmania, Entura, TasNetworks, Goldwind and ACEN Australia and was made possible through a grant from the Tasmanian Government.

We’re also seeing more companies supporting working parents by providing all employees, regardless of gender or caring status, equal paid parental leave and introducing innovative strategies to enhance flexibility and work-life balance, recognising the unique challenges that exist in site-based and frontline roles.

5. What can be done by utilities to get in early and encourage young women in school who are exploring future career options in STEM to pursue this career and onboard at them at the early stage and help mould their careers?

I am passionate about encouraging a pipeline of female talent through school and higher education. There aren’t enough women in STEM roles and this is a societal challenge. Young women need to learn about STEM career options early and see other women in these roles. I often hear how young women were not aware that certain STEM career options even existed.

Inspiring and encouraging young women is at the heart of what Hydro Tasmania does. Our programs are great examples of the positive impact energy utilities can have and I am very proud of the work our teams are doing through initiatives such as our Generation Hydro program, Girls in Power and Engineers Australia scholarships.

Generation Hydro incorporates diversity at a young age by showing women in STEM roles. Our story telling in the classroom often has girls filling traditionally male-dominated roles of the engineer or tradesperson. We offer career chats with women in STEM roles to schools and our education materials feature female STEM mascots.

Bringing STEM to life for young women is important and that’s what Girls in Power is designed to do. Through hands-on workshops, power industry work exposure visits, and inspiring female guest speakers who work in the industry. Through these events, we emphasise the importance of the diversity in thinking that women add. We want girls to see and understand that, and to strive for leadership roles – enriching both their careers and their workplace.

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You can also hear from Ruth at our exhibition and summit next 7 – 8 May! Register free online for the exhibition and book your delegate pass. Flash sale now on – use code SUMMIT25 to save $250 on your ticket, limited time only – sale ends 31 March. 

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