Allen & York

Women in waste


Courtesy of Allen & York

The current climate can not be described as prosperous whatever the profession that you are in. It is not a way of ‘living’ but merely a means of ‘surviving’. This has never been more accurate than for the women in waste.

The name Jane is defined as one of the many feminine forms of John whereas John is defined as an English masculine name. In the workplace in many industries today, focussing on the Environment Industry in particular, the name John should now be classed as the masculine form of Jane in an evident reversal of roles.

Jane Davidson and Jane Kennedy are two women impacting the Environment Industry through leadership as Environment Ministers. Many other women now sit on the Board of Directors in Environmental organisations that were previously male dominated.

Jane Kennedy was appointed the Minister of State for DEFRA – Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - in October 2008. In the waste world she has recently been in the news with plans for building 1000 anaerobic digestion plants to process food waste and farm manures into heat, power and fuel. These plants aim to be built by 2020 to help meet targets of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 26% and furthermore reduce greenhouse gasses by 80% by 2050.

As the new Minister for Farming and the Environment, Jane Kennedy has many responsibilities including animal welfare and health and more relevantly waste and recycling. She is one female minister out of three male ministers at Defra.

Jane Davidson – Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing – was voted Number 1 in the Resource Magazine’s ‘Resource Hot 100’ - a current list of who is influencing and actioning change in the sustainable waste management industry in the UK.

Her role as Minister includes leading on Climate Change and Sustainability on behalf of her Cabinet as well as planning, energy, water, waste and promoting walking and cycling. As a result of her ambitiousness and support, Jane Davidson was awarded 3rd place in the Independent on Sunday’s Green List of the top 100 environmental campaigners in the UK.

Published lists as mentioned, awarding individuals on their efforts in environmental positions in the environment and related industries, and headlining the news are increasingly being dominated by influential, powerful females such as CEO of WRAP, Liz Goodwin, Head of Waste at EA, Liz Parkes, the Environmental Officer at Lush, Ruth Andrade and most recently the new Head of Consultancy at Mistral Group, Amanda Barry-Hirst.

Over the past year, Allen & York – global leading recruitment specialists in the environment and related industries – have moved from a 100% male management team to a 50:50 ratio of men and women, managing the individual teams of expert consultants, to the Company as a whole.

Successful, professional females is still a fairly new concept today as Women’s rights including the right to vote, to work, equal and fair pay, to be educated etc, changed at the beginning of the 20th Century. For centuries, women fought for the same rights as men and it finally changed from women having limited rights to the equal existence of men and women today.

Environmental history focuses on men’s roles and generally ignored any female involvement; evidence of this has been identified in texts that centred on elite male concerns and generally disregarded or marginalised females resulting in numerous gaps in the environmental history of women.

In recent decades, women have openly and noticeably expressed concern about environmental issues from all social classes, nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. This change increased alongside the increased number of movements in support of women’s rights, put together women recognising that they have the right to participate in environmental dilemmas.

Women have worked together to effect change by establishing NGO’s – Non-Governmental Organisations – which has made them increasingly powerful as they acknowledge to the world that not only do they have the right to act as catalysts for change but theories have stated that women could better protect the Earth than men if in power. This combination of feminism and environmentalism has lead to the new approach, Ecofeminism.

Ecofeminisim or Ecological feminism was a term born in 1974 by Francoise d’Eaubonne, a French feminist, who believed that the social mentality that leads to the domination and oppression of women is directly connected to that leading to the abuse of the environment.

The core belief of Ecofeminisim is that of male domination, exploitation of women and of the degradation of nature by men, overall proposing patriarchy as the root cause of many of the problems in the world.

Gender and Urban Waste Management is a topic that has been researched into and it was discovered that the empowerment of women is critical in the support of new initiatives in urban services and environmental protection to increase project effectiveness, avoid costly mistakes and ensure equitable access to resources or benefits which the project makes available. The latter supporting ecofeminstic beliefs that male domination has hindered the environment in the past.

Womens movements such as Ecofeminism and earlier movements like the NUWSS, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and the WSPU, Women’s Social and Political Union, existed purely for freedom and to fight for what they believed in.

However, forty years after the Equal Pay Act, surveys still show women getting paid significantly less than men for similar work therefore the question can be raised, are women truly equal to modern men and in the current economy will this be a deciding factor for the future of the women in the waste industry?

A recognized figure in this industry like Jane Kennedy has been able to advance in her field and career but she is still outnumbered by men in the boardroom which would possibly signify that a discriminatory “glass ceiling” still exists for women.

The TUC – Trades Union Congress – general secretary Brendan Barber said, at the beginning of March, that the recession was going to be an ‘equal opportunities recession’. However, a study conducted by the TUC showed the redundancy rate among women had risen by 2.3% which was almost double the rate for men in 2008.

With this in mind, are women still fighting an uphill battle to gain the respect and authority they deserve from a previously male orientated industry? Or has the balance changed to sit in favour with a female majority?

Paul Gosling, Operations Director at Allen & York says, “It has been apparent over the last 3 years that many of our clients have recruited more women in what used to be male dominated roles and at all levels from Graduates to Directors.” He continued by saying, “This change is not sector specific, but noticeable across the Environment and all related industries that we serve.”

It is obvious that it is the beginning of a changing era where women will continue to fight for the top jobs and succeed. The nature of business will never really change, people will take on certain roles, make changes, or not, and then move on. The challenge is how long you can hold on to that position and be seen as a success. Certainly from the ‘Resource Hot 100’ Jane Davidson is ranked number one but amongst a male majority, how long will she be able to hold on to the top spot?

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