Number of female recruits across the East of England increases

Openreach is seeing a positive change in the number of female recruits joining the company across the East of England.

It’s after the UK’s largest broadband network - used by customers of hundreds of companies including BT, Sky, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Zen - made decision to put the language it uses to recruit employees under the microscope.

Back in January, work started with Linguistic Landscapes and gender bias expert Dr Chris Begeny from Exeter University, which revealed that women were 50 per cent less likely to consider roles that had a coded gender bias.

Since then, significant changes have been made throughout Openreach to the way jobs are advertised, helping to drive big improvements in the number of women coming into new roles in 2021.

The company is recruiting some 295 people into roles across the East in the current financial year and to date, 13 per cent of the intake is female – a statistic that in previous years stood in single digits.

The new recruits are mainly to support the role out of Ultrafast Full Fibre, which has so far reached more than 450,000 homes and businesses across the region.

East of England partnership director Kieran Wines said: “Research into the language barriers that impact female job applicants has shown that it plays a fundamental role in the recruitment process. We’d like to see more women choose careers in engineering, particularly here at Openreach, so we’re trying to address that.

“Engineering is a varied, stimulating and valuable career and it’s really important that we present it in ways that encourages as diverse a workforce as possible.

“We’ve been amazed to see just how much of a difference subtle changes in language can make. Despite four in five women admitting they wouldn’t consider working in engineering, more than half were interested in an entry-level engineering role once it had been rewritten in a consciously-unbiased way.

“This is just one way we’re making changes to put our values at the heart of what we do. While we’re tackling the challenge on a number of fronts, we’ve been encouraged to see a significantly higher percentage of women joining our East of England workforce this year.”

Kieran added: “We made a decision to be transparent about where we are and what we want to achieve. We set ambitious targets and plans that support our journey, and regularly share the progress we’re making. We want everyone who works here to feel fully accepted for who they are and valued for their contribution.

To that end, Openreach recently published its Diversity and Inclusion Commitments, which include that by 2025, 20 per cent of trainee engineer recruits and 50 per cent of external hires into management will be women.

As levels of ethnic diversity vary across the UK, the company is setting targets based on regional variations in ethnicity which reflect the local population and, at a minimum, match regional ethnic minority representation.

Openreach also has people networks in place in areas such as gender equality, neurodiversity, ethnic diversity and the Pride network, alongside a network of allies who want to create an inclusive workplace for everyone. These communities are growing fast - with 4,000 people now actively working to make a difference.

Kieran added: “We’re passionate about change and hope the work we’re doing will be of interest to other businesses – and that we can learn from each other collectively.”

For more information on Openreach’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion and to download its commitments report, visit https://www.openreach.com/careers/diversity-and-inclusion