Jessica Hooper is Director of RenewableUK Cymru.  She shares her thoughts on how flexible working has enabled her to start a new role.   

On my first International Women’s Day as a mother, I find myself reflecting on what this means to me, particularly as a working mother.  Before I had my daughter nine months ago, I fully intended to take a full year of maternity leave.  If you’d told me this time last year that I’d be in a senior management position at a UK trade association, I’d have told you that you were mistaken.  However, two months after having my daughter, an opportunity presented itself that was too good to miss. 

To cut a long story short, I became Director of RenewableUK Cymru when my daughter was not quite six months old.  I was joined by my Assistant Director, Manon Kynaston, who was also just returning from maternity leave with a one-year-old.   

Manon and me originally applied for the role together on a job share basis – we weren’t sure how this would be received as this had not been in the original job advert.  Thankfully, RenewableUK fully embraced our suggestion and after discussion, we settled on the structure of a Director and Assistant Director.   

I had read lots of reports about how difficult it is striking the right balance when you come back to work after having a baby – sadly most of it seemed to be negative.  Just last week I was reading a report from That Works For Me about what happens to women’s careers after they have children – it doesn’t make for comfortable reading.  The report found there is a 32% drop off of women at managerial level after they have children.  Eleven per cent leave the workforce entirely.   

But it doesn’t have to be like this – there are solutions.  The same report states that 98% of mothers want to work and 52% want to work four days or more.  Women make up 50% of the population and by the age of 40, 86% of them will be mothers.  Businesses need to be looking how they retain women in the workforce once they become mothers and to open their eyes to the opportunities rather than just focus on the negatives. 

Luckily for Manon and me, we now work for RenewableUK – an organisation that actively advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.  It was agreed that I would work one day a week for the first five months with the intention of working up to three days a week by the time my daughter turns one.  Without open thinking like this, I would never have considered returning to the workplace so soon after becoming a mother.  Manon did something similar with a phased start for the first three months of her joining RenewableUK.   

But that’s not the only thing RenewableUK is doing to support women.  The Switch List was launched in 2018 and was initially aimed at tackling the lack of female speakers at energy industry events.  It has since been broadened out further than gender and now offers a directory of diverse speakers from the energy sector to help the industry ensure their event panels and discussions have broad representations.  It’s a free to use service and includes a wide range of speakers from interns to CEOs.  In addition to this, RenewableUK also committed to ensuring that at least 40% of the speakers, panellists and chairs at its events are women 

The RenewableUK Shadow Board provides a wider range of views on key issues to Board Members.  The members of the Shadow Board reflect RenewableUK’s commitment to improving gender and ethnic diversity, as well as the geographical and technological diversity of member organisations.    

Initiatives such as phased returns to work after having a baby may seem obvious and simplistic but they make a massive difference, and we need to see more organisations offering them and being open to more flexible working.  I wasn’t sure whether RenewableUK would accept our suggestion of a phased job share, especially from people who hadn’t even started working with them yet!  I may not have broken the glass ceiling yet, but I like to think that I’ve banged hard enough on it to make a few cracks.