Tackling misconceptions to attract diverse talent

2 min read

This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Caroline Bradley, Cable Engineering Manager at National Grid, talks about her career experiences, the huge opportunity for women to join the energy sector and her advice to anyone considering the profession.

Over the course of my 19-year career in the energy industry, I’ve found both the sector and my role to be male dominated. Thankfully, however, that dynamic hasn’t impacted my career progression or how I’ve worked in teams; it’s never made a difference to other people in the room that I’m a female engineer, so it’s never made a difference to me. In recent years, I’ve seen positive changes, with more women joining the workforce – but there is still more that can be done to expand that talent pool and ensure we’re representing the communities we operate in.

Working on the world’s longest subsea cable

I joined the National Grid graduate scheme straight from university, with a degree in electrical engineering. Once I completed the graduate programme, I joined an asset management team which focused on underground cables and supporting teams out on the road. Soon, I realised there were many opportunities within the business to explore; including roles that have made a real difference in tackling climate change.

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After working in different roles across electricity and gas, I joined the team focusing on   interconnector projects - including North Sea Link (NSL), based in Blyth - which is a huge subsea cable that enables the UK and Norway to share renewable power.

Having grown up in Blyth, I was really passionate about the NSL project. It was a job where I could really see the benefits in terms of cutting carbon emissions, creating local jobs and helping the UK meet its climate goals. This role also had an element of international collaboration, as the team worked closely with our partner Statnett in Norway, to deliver an interconnector with the capacity to power up to 1.4million UK homes with green energy.

Engineering is much more than getting muddy and digging holes

In the energy industry in particular, we need to recruit people with a diverse range of backgrounds to help us overcome the challenges to reaching net zero. To attract talent from different communities, we have seen more engagement with diverse groups across the sector, and an increase in the number of women and girls pursuing engineering. But to continue on that trajectory we must address ongoing barriers and misconceptions that can still discourage people from considering this career path.

There are lots of routes into the profession such as apprenticeships

For me, one of the key reasons behind fewer girls and women joining the sector is an ongoing misunderstanding of what engineering is and what we do. This became really clear when I volunteered with the Imagineering Foundation, which aims to introduce 8-16 years old to the world of engineering and technology. Many of the younger children at the time thought engineering meant getting muddy and digging holes, and it made me realise that more needs to be done to help them understand from an early age the huge breadth of roles that fall under engineering ; there’s the manual hands-on side and there’s also a more technical side – and then there are people in who sit in the middle and bring these two areas together. That’s what I get to do now, and I absolutely love it.

It’s an exciting time to become an engineer and join the net zero workforce

For anyone considering engineering, especially in the energy sector, I’d really recommend you go for it. You don’t need an engineering degree to pursue engineering, there are lots of routes into the profession such as apprenticeships. It’s a really exciting time to join the industry with a huge opportunity to work with and learn from people that want to help the UK deliver on net zero commitments through innovative solutions. There will be so many new developments in the years and decades ahead, and we need people who think differently and can bring fresh ideas to the sector to make the most of these.

Caroline Bradley, Cable Engineering Manager at National Grid