In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day 2022 (23 June), Karen Sloan spoke to The Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers for a feature about inspirational women in our industry, asking them about their career and experiences as a woman working in the gas sector.
When asked what she likes about working in the gas industry, Karen said: “the gas industry is a really rewarding industry to work in – we have the ability to make a real impact by playing an active role in keeping people safe in their homes. It’s also exciting – as well as making a difference to people’s lives, day in-day out, we are a core industry in the drive towards net zero that will see us continue to make a difference in years to come. I’ve already been lucky enough to see that happen over 20 years in the industry, and it’s been great to be part of the continual changes and innovation that the sector has seen during my career.”
The theme for INWED 2022 is ‘Inventors and Innovators’, and innovation is a key aspect of leadership, so it seemed like a perfect time to ask Karen how she approaches this in her role: “in terms of innovation, I think it’s crucial to not only look for new technologies and tools, but also encourage innovative ways of thinking. This reengineers our working practices and continually helps us to view our services through the eyes of our customers. It can also challenge us to look at the small things, and from there we can create impact across the whole system we work within.
“On top of that, I always look to engage and include our people working on the frontline of our service. They see how we can improve things first-hand, so I prioritise ensuring that they have a platform to share their ideas and help inform our processes and ways of working.”
So, what has Karen’s experience as a woman in the gas industry been like? “I have really enjoyed my career so far and I love the industry, but it has been a challenge to break down the barriers to achieve success. I feel I have had to work harder to gain respect, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t missed out on a number of roles earlier in my career,” she said, adding: “I am really pleased to see this has changed a lot over the last few years, and now there are a lot more women in senior positions than when I first started – even if there is still some way to go.”
As for encouraging other women and girls to pursue a career in the field, it’s an absolute yes from Karen – “I’ve made it my priority to increase the number of women in my teams throughout my career and I feel proud to have been part of their journey. This is a great industry and I feel that with more balanced representation, women can really make an impact and continue to challenge inequality. This starts by working hard to promote careers in our sector to young women whilst they are still in education.
“We can all also support the career progression of women within our organisations in non-technical roles, by creating pathways for progression that recognise the transferable skill sets and experience they can bring to the industry.”