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Home » Employee Wellbeing » Supporting female staff at critical life moments and why it matters

Amy O’Shaughnessy

Head of Brand, Energia

Colleen Rainey

Sponsorship Executive, Energia

Claire McElroy

Regulation Manager, Energia

Maternity leave, menopause and undergoing fertility treatment are critical points in the lives of women that can even lead to them falling out of the world of work.

The importance of supporting female employees in the workplace is now being increasingly recognised. Tailored support has benefits in seeing early career women gain a foothold within an organisation or enable established female employees to develop their careers and aspire to leadership roles.

Gender equality

Energia Group is committed to being an organisation that recognises the value of diversity among its staff and where all staff feel included and valued — irrespective, and because, of their uniqueness. They are taking active steps in committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by providing a safe, healthy and inclusive working environment for employees and encouraging their professional and personal growth.

Women in Energy, the Women’s Network within Energia Group has set up groups that support maternity leave, offer opportunities to younger female employees and help those looking to advance their careers. The network covers the Energia and Power NI brands across the island of Ireland and is fully supported by the senior leadership team with Group HR Director Michele Hanley as the network sponsor.

In addition, the participants have had input into drafting company policies that may reshape the workplace for women. The company’s Head of Brand, Amy O’Shaughnessy, says the network has an important part to play in ensuring women feel supported and cared for at key points in their careers.

We provide help and support, so mums feel less nervous about going off on maternity leave.

Claire McElroy

Sense of belonging

Along with groups aligning with the career and life stages women are at, Amy also underlines their networking value in organising events and activities, hearing from inspirational speakers and nurturing a ‘sense of belonging.’ The groups meet monthly to offer support and enable women to deal with challenges in their private lives. Inclusivity and allyship are important elements in considering the language used around issues such as fertility treatment, menopause and maternity leave.

Safe space

Sponsorship Executive Colleen Rainey, who joined the company on the graduate programme, is involved with the Early Career women’s network. She explains how new joiners are introduced to meetings and invited to speak about their aspirations, as well as hear from guest speakers from the Senior Management team about their career paths and experiences.

Meanwhile, Claire McElroy, Regulation Manager, is active in the Women’s Returners group after coming back to work from maternity leave. She outlines how the group supports female employees going on maternity leave, during that leave and on the return to work. “We provide help and support, so mums feel less nervous about going off on maternity leave while allowing them to still be connected while they are off.”

“It also makes that process of coming back easier — and making sure women are going to be able to reach their full potential when they come back to work,” Claire adds. “I was nervous about returning to work, but this made it a lot less daunting.”

Health policies

An information guide has been developed for employees on maternity leave and includes details and tips for managers on how to best liaise with employees going on maternity leave and returning to work. The company was also proud to publish policies that address and support fertility treatment, menopause and flexible working.

“Research shows that women can fall out of a career journey at the point of maternity leave or menopause,” says Amy. “By putting these policies in place, we feel we can enable women to fulfil their potential. It is about educating managers and giving them a toolkit, so they feel able to understand and empathise at these critical times.”

Women in Energy is looking to broaden its reach and is developing a calendar of activities for 2023. Amy truly believes the network is already making a positive impact on employee engagement and retention.

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