In her article, Katie Coyne asked: “Was it the case that the panel comprised representatives from some large organisations that perhaps did not want to be associated with this type of discussion? If so, then we need a few independent speakers to kick off the debate before the bigger companies will join in.”
As a woman working in waste, in an independent, thriving business, I think perhaps I’ve got the qualifications and confidence to respond. I think women bring something different to the waste industry. But it is only as the sector has matured that women’s approach has become relevant.
Now that so many materials we can (and must) be reprocessed, it has made the importance of ‘people’ skills, or ‘soft’ skills, an essential part of success and efficiency. We all know that if you are not efficient then you can’t be profitable, so now the hard business case is there for the woman’s touch.
Of course, it is a huge generalisation to say that all women are more creative or better at soft skills. Just like men, we cover the spectrum of personality types. But there is a need in the industry for people who are specialists in the creative side of the business, for example, in developing staff engagement programmes or instigating communications campaigns for the general public.
A working team is most productive if it has a good mix of men and women, who themselves have a wide blend of personality styles and skills. At WasteSolve, my colleagues Mandy, Jenny and Alannah are hard working and efficient, but they also build a creative and livelier environment when working alongside Matt, Dave and Tim.
Our different perspectives and complementary skills seem to bring out the best in each other. Perhaps, in classic brainstorming terms, we feel able to express our most creative or extreme ideas because we know that other members of the team will be able to moderate or balance our ideas.
One of the advantages of not having a long legacy of women in the waste workplace is that we can be more adventurous with our ideas because we do not have a traditional mould to fit and, dare I say, more freedom to innovate.
And that brings me to another point which I’m not afraid to be blunt about: most men are stronger than women. There are some jobs for which men are more suited due to their extra strength and stamina. But there are some operational jobs, such as a picking line, where the rapid dexterous movements required make it a good place to employ women.
It is all about recognising the right job for the right person. I understand that some people do not want to say women are different, when we have fought so hard to say we are equal to men.
But for me the joy of equality is being able to have the confidence to speak up for and celebrate our differences, where they do exist, and then having the power to harness them to the benefit of all.
Kate Cawley, creative director at environmental consultancy WasteSolve
Read Katie Coyne’s original article at mrw.co.uk/8636125.article