Making the case for women in waste

In the vast majority of industries, what were once considered “jobs for the boys” are simply no longer, as women break down perceived barriers and prove that they are just as capable as their male counterparts. It’s a shame then, says Lorraine Milburn, HR Manager at Grundon Waste Management, that more women don’t consider a career in the waste industry:

As a business, we’re proud to employ female staff in what are seen as more typically male jobs – operationally in our weighbridge facilities, as Traffic Co-ordinators, and over recent years, a hand-full of female drivers. Our Health and Safety Manager and our Compliance Manager are both female, as is our Project Manager.

Having said that, we know that there are far more opportunities for women to join us but, in common with many other organisations in the waste sector, we
struggle to attract them.

For many women, I think waste is quite literally a dirty word. There’s a perception that this is a male dominated environment – which it is to some degree, but so are many sectors which do successfully attract women.

Male or female, I think most people would agree that a waste management facility will never be the cleanest place to work, but it is highly regulated, operates to best practice industry standards, and uses sophisticated technology to do a very important role in helping to protect the environment around us.

We pride ourselves on our HR and training, we have a development programme which allows employees the opportunity to progress their careers, and there are numerous opportunities to gain new competencies and qualifications. All of this means no matter whether you left school with minimal qualifications or have a top class degree, you will be handed the tools to build a successful career.

And knowing that many mums (and dads) juggle family and work priorities, we do our best to embrace today’s more flexible approach to the worklife balance by offering some part-time roles and flexible working.

A number of our middle and senior management employees are female and although there isn’t a woman on the board of directors – that’s a challenge for another day – I like to think that when it does happen, it will set a positive example to others.

Supporting and applauding successful women is something we always want to do more of and, as title sponsors of the 2015 Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Women in Business Awards, we’ll be proudly flying the Grundon flag as the winner of Woman of the Year is announced on May 6.

Of course, you can argue that Women in Business awards shouldn’t be necessary and everyone (male or female) should be judged on their own merit, but these inspiring women are leading the way and becoming much-needed role models for their younger peers.

Awards aside, I’d love to see many more CVs popping into my inbox from women who want to work in waste. Who want to achieve great things and aspire to a career in an industry which is challenging, exciting, diverse and constantly looking for new ideas.

After all, without recycling and waste management facilities, where would we be – we certainly couldn’t continue to landfill waste in our beautiful countryside.

How much better surely, to be part of an industry which is driving environmental best practice for future generations, something which must be important for everyone – promoting a greener and healthier environment.

In the 11 years that I’ve worked for Grundon, I’ve seen perceptions and attitudes change and, thanks to all my colleagues, I no longer feel I am working in a man’s world.

There’s a very open door for women in the waste industry – I’d like to see more of them walking through it and climbing the ladder to career success.

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