In conversation with safety consultant Natalie Hughes-Narborough for International Women’s Day

March 8, 2024

Natalie’s journey into the renewables sector wasn’t a conventional one. Initially studying architecture before moving into the construction sector, she was captivated by the teamwork ethos. After travelling, she pursued health and safety certifications and joined SRC. Working in Teesside, a hub for net zero initiatives, Natalie is inspired by the chance to enact meaningful change and empower youth. On International Women’s Day, she underscores the significance of advocating for diversity and inclusion.

Would you describe your industry as male dominated?

While there’s definitely been a shift, I’d say men still make up the majority in the industry overall. However, SRC stands out by having a really encouraging proportion of women in roles. With the renewables sector expanding quickly, it’s a chance for everyone to excel. I’m happy to see more organisations embracing inclusivity, leading to more women taking on roles traditionally held by men.

How important is it for younger people to see females in the industry?

It’s really important for young people to see role models they can relate to. When I was younger, my aspirations were often limited by what I saw around me. But now, with increasing visibility, we’re breaking those barriers. When young people see someone like them excelling in a role, whether it’s based on gender, race, or background, it becomes more tangible for them. Personally, I could have pursued an engineering role based on my academic performance, but societal perceptions often whispered, ‘that’s more of a boy thing.’

Encouraging young females to broaden their horizons is crucial. Witnessing women in various roles serves as inspiration. It’s essential to begin at school level, showcasing that these opportunities are open to all genders and that women can excel just as much as men.

Do you feel any bias within the industry as a female in this role?

The renewables sector’s rapid growth attracts individuals from various backgrounds, facilitating a collaborative environment where questions are welcomed and senior staff are receptive. Many professionals in the industry, including those with offshore experience from the oil and gas sector, work alongside newcomers, creating an atmosphere conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing.

How important is it that we continue to support campaigns such as International Women’s Day?

I used to question the necessity of specific promotions for women. However, systemic issues persist, and initiatives like International Women’s Day serve as crucial reminders of our progress and the ongoing work needed for equality. Women bring unique skills to workplaces and there’s a growing recognition of the value of collaborative decision-making. It’s essential to ensure that opportunities are accessible to all individuals and that they have pathways for advancement and leadership roles. Traditionally, leadership qualities have been associated with more assertive, male-centric traits, but it’s vital to recognise and appreciate the characteristics that women often possess, which are equally valuable in managerial roles.

How do we go about ensuring more females consider roles that historically have been male dominated?

Building self-belief is crucial in driving this change. We must convince ourselves, as well as others, of our capabilities. As we initiate change and become accustomed to it, we realise that it’s achievable, whereas previously, we may have adhered to what we’ve always known. There have been times in the past when women assumed traditionally male roles due to necessity, such as during the war and this highlights the potential for change. Significant events often prompt shifts in our approaches, which we may not consider until forced to confront them, but we have an opportunity to make change without relying on a significant event.

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