17 May 2019

The participation and progress of women in waste

OPINION: What can be done to further improve the participation and progression of women in the recycling and waste industry? Dr Tracey Leghorn, human resources director at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, gives her thoughts on this topical issue.

Women in waste – top of the industry agenda?

Dr Tracey Leghorn of SUEZ UK will be speaking at the Letsrecycle Live event on 23 May

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the last 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in STEM disciplines. With the prevalence for more women recycling in a domestic setting, their perspective represents a key influence in the move towards a more eco-aware society that is fully engaged with what happens to household and other waste. How can we utilise this to drive our female agenda?

With the world facing the challenge of scarce natural reserves, the industry is calling for women to step forward to innovate and to play their part in sustainably managing the resources that are essential to our future. The SUEZ Group is looking at how our business will progress with gender diversity with a dedicated roadmap and by setting new indicators.

In my keynote presentation – the Changing face of waste – at the upcoming Letsrecycle.Live event I will be exploring the factors that can positively influence or constrain women’s career and work choices. This will provide insight into how organisations in the recycling and waste industry can optimise women’s ability to be present and progress in our industry which has traditionally been heavily male-dominated.

Changing makeup of the waste workforce

Our industry is slowly moving on from being heavily male-dominated. Not only are we seeing more women in leadership roles, but there are also early signs of an increase in women in operational and manual roles which were traditionally perceived as ‘male jobs’.

There are early signs that more women are now working in operational roles (picture: paulbox)

This move towards a more feminised industry is occurring as the image of the waste sector as a whole is changing. In days gone by, it was seen as a ‘dirty’ industry. It is now recognised as one of the cleanest and greenest fields to work in, one of which has a greater purpose than ever before.

During the Changing face of waste session I will share with the delegates some insights from my career in HR as well as academic research I have carried out.

I am passionate about ‘women and work’ issues and in 2017 I concluded five years of research exploring whether women’s psychological attachment to work impacts their career and motherhood choices. My findings often bring about healthy debate and learning in the subject area. However, the most important thing I have concluded over the last 20 years is that it is not about women or society prioritising one choice over another (work, motherhood or a combination of both), but in fact that we should have the freedom to choose and not have to justify our own individual choices.

As organisations operating in a hitherto male dominated industry, it is vital that we understand the individual needs of women in order to develop insightful and tangible strategies to attract, develop, promote and retain them.

So what can be done to further improve the participation and progression of women in the recycling and waste industry?

Be sure to register for Letsrecycle Live and join me in the SUEZ keynote theatre on 23 May 2019 at 9:00am for networking and thought-provoking Women in Waste sessions.

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