Balance for Better

Balance for Better
08 March 2019
In this blog, Ricardo Energy & Environment’s Internal Enagagement Lead Gill Pabst takes a look the important role that Women and Men play in making a better work environment for all employees.

In 1966 James Brown famously sang:
“This is a man's world, this is a man's world. But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”

As a teenager this lyric used to make me furious, but as I have mellowed with age I can see he had a point – It certainly was a man’s world in 1966, however the world in which we live and work in 2019 is a very different place.  We need the capabilities of both men and women, we wouldn’t be nothing without a balance.

The world is ours for the taking which ties in beautifully with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: #BalanceforBetter

  • The future is exciting. Let's build a gender-balanced world.
  • Everyone has a part to play - all the time, everywhere.
  • Balance is not a women's issue, it's a business issue.
  • Balance drives a better working world. Let's all help create a #BalanceforBetter

The world needs the gifts of men and women, and while the challenges men and women face are very different it’s a great opportunity to look at the impact women have made in the market we work within. From it’s very inception in the late 1950’s we have had a strong female presence in our business and I am delighted that women have a strong indispensable presence in every part of our business. I spoke to my colleagues about who had inspired them and had some wonderful responses. I'd like to start with our very own Special Constable... 

Jemma Howland, Senior Consultant:

For the last 22 years I have worked for Ricardo as a Senior Consultant working in the Infrastructure & Utilities – Energy practice and it’s a very rewarding role.  I also enjoy doing volunteering work in my spare time.  In 2015 I had stopped volunteering at a club for adults with special needs after 5 years’ service and was looking for a new opportunity. I started to think about becoming a Special Police Officer for Thames Valley Police.  A Special constable has the same powers as regular officers and are crucial to providing an extra police presence and provide additional support.

I decided to attend a Specials Recruitment evening and I had a “ride along” with my local police.  I did a night shift as an observer with a Regular. I quickly concluded that the recruitment process and training was going to be worth all the effort.  I submitted my application at the end of July and started training in December 2015.  I completed 9 weekends of training at Sulhamstead and joined a local station in April 2016.  I quickly gained evidence of 50 jobs and so was fit for independent patrol in just under 6 months due to two amazing tutors.

I am now classed as an Emergency Response Officer, so I attend the most serious 999 calls when I am on shift with a Regular crew mate.  I am trained to deal with some of the toughest challenges the police service must face.  I do a lot of weekend shifts mostly the 5pm till 3am or 9pm to 7am. I have passed my police driving and can drive a police car and van but obviously not on blue lights to 999 calls!

The role is diverse and very demanding, and you will deal with situations and people you would probably never encounter in your day-to-day life. Being a Special Police Officer is both exciting and rewarding. I very proud to say that I am a Special, but I so lucky that I love my day job too and I wouldn’t change either role for all the tea in china! If anyone is interested in the voluntary role – I am happy to give you more of an insight.

Nikki Ponton, Human Resources Manager:

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minster, gets my vote because she is so natural and straight-talking.  I particularly like her view that you can be strong and kind at the same time.  Obviously becoming a mum whilst running the country has also done wonders for gender diversity.

Rupert Kruger, Director:

I had the pleasure to work for Pamela  CEO of Water UK (now retired), the trade association for the UK water industry.  Pamela’s experience in the world  of communications, having previously worked for the BBC, brought a very different mindset to the way the water industry worked.

To this day, I still recall my admiration for her ability to set and control the strategic agenda for Water UK and keep a disparate group of male-dominated CEOs aligned and onboard.  If there was ever an appropriate use of the phrase ‘herding cats’ it was a skillset that had to be deployed by Pamela on numerous occasions. And as a food guru and fitness fanatic, She instilled a sense of balance and well-being into the hectic work agenda. Many a problem could be solved with a meal in a good restaurant and a glass of champagne…

Tim Curtis, Managing Director:

When Gill asked me to think about this, I thought way back into the past to my primary school teacher.  She was quite a formidable lady (well she was when you were 7), and this was the 70's, when a ruler to the back of the hand was not considered abnormal punishment for bad behaviour.  But whilst she was formidable, she also cared a huge amount about her pupils. For example, unusually for those days, we learned French at primary school, and indeed I had the first overseas trip of my life to Boulogne, aged about 9.  I still remember it vividly...including spending a night in a youth Hostel in Dover, getting the ferry and wandering around Boulogne looking for something to spend my 10 francs on.  I was from a small village in Norfolk and this kind of trip was unheard of back then, and it was all down to her for making it happen and widening our horizons.

She also left me with a life-long love of reading. She would take groups of us every week to a small library at the house of a local author…when we could spend an hour reading from a selection of books and maybe having a reading directly from an author. I loved those times and wish I found more time to read now than a 5 book blitz on summer holiday.

She also encouraged and supported me to apply for a school scholarship at 11, and alongside my mum who tutored me and got me up to speed, was central to me getting that scholarship, which put me on the road to being the first male to get to University from my family (as it happened there were plenty of good female role models on my mum’s side of the family: my aunt became a GP in the 1950s, which was pretty unusual back then).

My teacher went on to have a long and successful career, and then started writing history books in her 80s. She played an important role in my formative years, and I hope the kids of today are as lucky to have such care, consideration and diligence in their teachers.

Jonathan Gibbard, Director:

I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing female colleagues throughout my time in the business, from my first MD Cathy, who was MD of Future Energy Solutions, to the Principal Consultants I worked with at that time Kate, Sarah  and Christine St John Cox – we won some amazing ‘Carbon’ related programmes including the NHS Carbon management programme with the Carbon Trust and Green500. Fast forward 14 years I have the privilege of working with a large number of highly driven, professional women across our business – from Sam as our NCEC Marketing Manager to my senior managers in NCEC Caroline, Emma and Lynn. I am excited about the number of brilliant women we have coming through the business! I was also delighted to be asked to mentor two women across the wider business who make not only a significant contribution to Ricardo but also to their industries where they are highly regarded and internationally recognised, acting as superb role models for others.

Chris Sowden, Senior Consultant:

The process behind scientific discoveries has always been of interest to me. Especially cases where we link the discovery to specific people, but looking beyond this reveals the overall process being much more complex. I was therefore intrigued when on 28th February a story popped up on my Facebook page relating to the work that a scientist called Rosalind Franklin had done to support the discovery of the structure of DNA which was first made on that date in 1953. I was very familiar with the names Watson and Crick, who had been awarded a Nobel prize for the discovery, but not with Maurice Williams who was also awarded the Nobel prize or with Rosalind Franklin – who was not.

The critical piece of the puzzle that Rosalind Franklin provided was X-ray diffraction image 51 of the DNA double helix. In my simple world this was the molecular photograph which showed the structure of DNA in sufficient clarity that Watson and Crick had their Eureka moment, working out how all of the building blocks fitted together and ultimately define the structure.

It was Franklin’s skill in the preparation of the DNA samples that had enabled the structure to be “photographed” so clearly. However, it seems that her time at King’s College London, where the research was done, did not run smoothly. Franklin and Williams led separate research teams and encountered a sufficient clash in personality that they struggled to work together. According to the story I saw, the image of DNA was provided to Watson and Crick without her permission, and she ultimately left to take a different post at Birkbeck College

After reading the article I was surprised that I wasn’t aware of more of the story behind such a significant change in scientific understanding and all of the people involved. But then fascinated by the work carried out by Rosalind Franklin, in what seems to have been a challenging environment for a woman to be working in.

The work she carried out on DNA was only one part of her research career, that also included research on coal and virus structures. Sadly, Ms. Franklin developed ovarian cancer and died in 1958, aged only 37 which, for me, further underlines the level of achievement that was made in relatively few years of scientific research work.

And me personally:

I admire any woman who makes their mark and does it their way. My Dad was a Sales Director for an Electrical Engineering firm and yet couldn’t change a light bulb or rewire a plug. My strong, independent Mum made sure we all had the skills to look after ourselves.

I was very fortunate to be supported by the company to attend a development programme in 2016 which helped me to decide I wanted to be a good role model for my daughters. I always tell them to try their hardest and if they did so then they could always be proud of themselves, but I then had a horrid realisation that I wasn’t trying my hardest and it was like a switch flicking in my brain. The world I want them to go out to work in is one in which they are treated as an equal and not treated differently by their gender or the length of their skirt hem. What they say and who they interact with will be taken on merit and merit alone.

Earlier on I said ‘balance drives a better working world’ and nowhere is this more evident in my life than at home and at work. The biggest advocates for women’s rights are my husband, a big beefy, pint swilling Oxford Utd supporting legend who encourages my daughters to go out and grab life and all its opportunities with both hands and my team leader who taught me more about the difference between the issues men and women face in the workplace than anyone I know.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, ‘Everyone has a part to play - all the time, everywhere.’