Taking on the role of Ofwat's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead felt like a very natural fit for me. I had spent the past two years championing EDI issues within the organisation and speaking about the importance of inclusivity because, as a child of immigrants, growing up in a white suburb of London, I've always been conscious about not fitting in. Belonging and being able to bring my true self to work is something I feel incredibly passionate about.
It is why I helped form Ofwat's first ever Black Staff Network and the Advancement For Racial Equality Network (AREN). Both networks have acted as safe spaces for our people to consider our role in driving forward a more equal, diverse and inclusive environment – both in society and at work.
Diversity in the workplace facilitates crucial diversity of thought and enriches decision-making capacity. It allows us access to a greater range of talent, today and tomorrow. It allows us to challenge the status quo, to think beyond what we know because there is someone else in the room who has different experiences, knowledge and expertise.
In our Time to Act strategy we asked water companies to get to know the customers and communities they serve to ensure they were delivering the very best service. For our part, we committed to listening to customers directly so we can better test our policies and guide where and how we hold companies to account.
To kickstart this work, in 2021 we launched Ofwat's first ever EDI strategy – Being Ourselves. We have spent the past 12 months delivering a number of actions to: educate our people, evolve our thinking, engage with others and equip our organisation with the necessary tools so we can truly reflect the needs of all customers and communities in our work.
We increased our data collection by encouraging our people to share their EDI information, so that we can accurately measure where we are now and where we are trying to get to on our EDI journey. The data has been used to create gender and ethnicity pay gap reports and identify areas of underrepresentation. We know that we need to do more to increase both female and ethnic minority representation because this is not where we want to be. But we are committed to understanding what is driving our gender and ethnicity pay gaps and are taking action to close them.
In creating our EDI strategy, we also knew there was a desire for increased education on EDI issues. So much of EDI is about learning. We need to be able to talk about the uncomfortable so that we can create an environment where everyone can truly be themselves at work. I knew that it was possible (and important) to be inquisitive and curious whilst being respectful about EDI issues. So, to help with this, I arranged 'elephant in the room' workshops. These sessions allowed our people to ask questions on anything in the EDI space and the workshops were an opportunity to dispel myths, listen to one another's experiences and create an environment where we could all learn, free from judgment.
Ofwat has made great progress on its EDI journey and I'm proud of what we've achieved in such a short space of time. There are some indications of the impact we are having in our annual People Survey 2021 where 93% of respondents said they are treated with respect by the people they work with and nine out of ten (90%) respondents said they believe Ofwat respects individual differences (for example: culture, backgrounds, ideas, working style).
With the support of our Senior Leadership Team, we've created the basis for a culture and environment where our people truly feel valued as individuals and where difference is respected. We know we still have more work to do, and we will continue to learn from some of the great examples of delivering EDI both in and outside of the water sector. I'm excited to see how we can continue to deliver our commitment on EDI, to make Ofwat a great place to be.