Earlier this week, the Diverse Heat Network (DHN) hosted its inaugural event at the Institute of Engineering of Technology (IET). It was an amazing event with a fantastic range of speakers and discussions, and of course it was also nice to catch up with those in the industry over a few drinks and nibbles!
As the name suggests, the DHN is all about promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion within the heat industry (and society as a whole), and from the moment I arrived at the venue, it was obvious that the team behind the event had already made a strong start, as both the speakers on the stage and the people in the audience were far more representative of the demography of the country than you would normally see at industry events.
I am aware there is a slight irony in me writing this piece as I am very much part of the white male majority in the industry, and I am very much aware of the privilege that has afforded me in life, but there were some key takeaways from the event that I would like to share as discourse around diversity is something for everyone to be partaking in:
- Don't build people up by dragging others down - A phrase that gets thrown around a lot about the heat industry is "white male stale" and because of this there is a tendency to lean towards tokenism or positive discrimination to combat this. When talking to the night's opening speaker Ayo Sokale, she challenged the use of this phrase and concept as trying to banish or put-down the "white males" doesn't help anyone and doesn't get us closer to the equality we are trying to achieve
- Educate the younger generation - During the panel discussion, one of the speakers raised that when surveying primary school age children for what jobs they know of, they reel off the stereotypical answers you would expect: doctor, police officer, lawyer, etc. When asked which jobs exist now which didn't ten years ago you get answers such as influencer and YouTuber but when asked what jobs they see themselves doing, they revert to the first list. Heat needs to put in work to make it seem more appealing to the younger generations as, unlike solar panels or wind turbines, you cannot see heat networks and yet they have the potential to have such a significant influence on their lives. Currently heat networks may only be associated with disruption as people only become aware of their existence when their road is being dug up and thus the industry as a whole needs to work together to market heat networks in a better way.
- Simple changes can go a long way - Conversations around "calls to action" can often seem intimidating as it can be difficult to know where to start, but in reality if you go back to the basics and start fresh with a new mentality, this can make a world of difference. I was talking to a director at one of our clients who was lamenting an inability to attract women to the company. He shared their job adverts with a female colleague within the industry and was it immediately obvious where they were going wrong. The language choices were making a very interesting and dynamic role sound boring and clinical and thus a simple change should attract a more diverse pool of potential recruits.
All in all, it was an amazing first event, and I will be striving to make sure Amberside are doing their bit to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in the industry going forward.