Chelsea tells us why a career in Operations isn't just for men

For International Women’s Day 2024 #InspireInclusion, we’re chatting with the wonderful Chelsea, a Tactical Asset Manager here at ST – from Customer Service Apprentice to Operations, and everything in between, she’s had a very varied career with us.

Now part of the Women in STEM advisory Group, she talks to us about how Operations isn’t just a man’s world, and chats about the brilliant progress the group are making to improve the experiences for females at ST and encourage more women to join us.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Chelsea, it’s great to chat with you. So, tell us a little bit about you and your role.

So, I joined Severn Trent 17 years ago straight from sixth form as a customer service apprenticeship. At the age of 18, I didn’t have a clue what career I wanted but the apprenticeship was really attractive to me, as I had a great desire to earn money and gain qualifications at the same time. At the age of 19, I was even able to buy my first home –the opportunity to own a home and learn at the same time was fantastic.  I have been lucky enough to receive some brilliant training and gained some qualifications along my career journey, including being sponsored to do my degree in Leadership and Management.

Over the years, I have progressed in opportunities all over the business, from customer service to marketing communications over to water efficiency, property, disposals, training, operations and now, I currently work in our land and planning team! Land and planning provides such a variety of tasks for me and my team to work on, from people encroaching on our land to supporting management our residential, telecoms, commercial and rural estate, no day is the same!

Wow, you really have had a varied career so far, it will be amazing where it will take you next. So, can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work in Operations, and why women should consider a job in this space?

Back in the day, I thought I wanted to be a PA, but since joining ST my career vision curve balled. I saw the manual work the men are doing first-hand, and it made me think, as a female why can’t I do that too? So with that, the next stop was to give a job in operations a go and I never looked back…  

Every women should consider a job in operations, it was what really rounded me off and the highlight of my career so far, from the intense challenges to the absolute best collaborative working! I had the opportunity to lead a team of 18 men, as a Repairs and Maintenance Team Manager in our water operations. I was hesitant at first not knowing how I would be accepted by a whole male team and trying to juggle being a single mom to a demanding toddler and at uni on evenings and Saturday’s for my degree.

I remember my first day standing in front of the team nervous as anything overly worried about if they thought I was up to the job, but straight away they all made me feel supported! They all stepped up to help train me, show me the ropes and have my back so I could succeed! To this day 6 years on I still miss working with them all, yes it was full of mud and tricky challenges 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but we all had such a great team spirit like nowhere else. We all worked hard to keep our customers happy and in the meantime we had such a laugh together. It wasn’t always out on site cold and wearing two left boots (don’t ask!), it was split between office work for training and daily admin tasks that are required to keep a team safe whilst doing their jobs.

What an opportunity – it sounds like you had a brilliant time in that role and learnt a lot too. Can you tell us how things progressed for women in Operations since you joined us?

ST’s culture always made it feel possible for me to follow a path, hence why I have worked in so many areas. Each area being super supportive of me, don’t get me wrong, 17 years ago I have to laugh at some of the PPE I would wear – male sizing, but over the years this has changed; there is now a whole women’s section of PPE in the catalogue that actually fits woman’s figures, including maternity.  When I joined the company, it would be often referred to as male dominated but it’s just not like that anymore, Severn Trent is inclusive of anyone and work hard to make everyone feel included.

It's great the progress we’ve made when it comes to PPE, when it comes to women’s sizing but also the most newest edition to the catalogue, the hijab. So, can you tell us what are some of the conversations you’re having in the advisory group to keep progressing things for women at ST?

I am an active member of the women in STEM and ops advisory group and I am fortunate enough to work with a great groups of people that have a passion to encourage and inspire women into STEM and male majority roles promoting the importance of gender equalityWe’ve been working on improving the offering of women’s PPE even further and working alongside our property team on providing more inclusive facilities on our sites. Not only that, but we’ve also been reaching out to local schools on how we can work with them to really inspire and encourage children from a young age that careers in STEM and ops are an avenue for all. We’ve also been tackling topics like the menopause, cervical cancer and endometriosis with our lovely colleagues.

So, for those reading this, thinking about a career at Severn Trent. Why join ST right now?

Good question! It’s such a fantastic and supportive company to work for, you become so passionate about the brand and the journey we’re on – now is the time to join. I mean just the fact we’ve just been named no.1 for Women on Boards in the FTSE 100 with three of our key roles being held by women: our Chair (Christine Hodgson), CEO (Liv Garfield), and CFO (Helen Miles) is incredible.

And if that isn’t inspiring enough then we’ve been recognised as one of the top 25 performers for Women in Leadership, by the FTSE Women Leaders Review, which focuses on increasing the representation of women on Boards and Leadership teams.  

To go one step further, we have just also announced our new maternity and adoption pay which allows employees to have 46 weeks off full pay and with annual leave entitlements it can go up to a whole year!

And, finally, what does the IWD theme #InspireInclusion mean to you?

The theme really made me think how far not only Severn Trent has come but the whole industry – and it makes me feel super proud to be part of this journey now and as we continue progressing and championing inclusion to give everyone the best possible option to succeed.

Thanks for chatting with us Chelsea, it’s been brilliant to learn about your journey here at ST, and we’re super excited about what the next chapter brings you.