Women at EDP: The Road to Equality

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Women at EDP: The Road to Equality

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As a mirror of society, EDP has taken great strides in the path to diversity, inclusiveness, and equal opportunities.

"I think that in today's job market, women still have to make some personal sacrifices in order to evolve professionally. Since women tend to be the providers of family care, they feel that because they have to stay home with their children, or because they may be late for work to take them to school, they have to make up for it in some way. Unfortunately, many women still have this mindset, which is still being promoted by some companies," says Sara Miguéns, a 28-year-old woman who works for EDP.

The road to equal opportunities for women and men is still long, and there are significant contrasts between different countries and cultures in this regard. It is urgent to rethink the female condition in the 21st century - something that several companies have been doing, sometimes even driving this social evolution.

Who are the women of today? How do they perceive their contribution to their companies? How do they engage with one another, and how do they reconcile work and family? And how are the men who work with them in the company? Does it still make a difference, in the 21st century, if you are a woman or a man?

Gender equality is a concept that demands fair treatment for both women and men, according to their specific needs, which may imply equal or different treatment, but always equivalent as far as rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities are concerned.

The struggle for women's rights was born more than 600 years ago but gained special relevance in the 19th century with the Suffragist Movement. Back then, a group of women faced the pressure of public opinion, their families and friends to demand the right to vote. They were involved in skirmishes with the police, burned down (empty) buildings, and destroyed several properties - various acts of courage whose purpose was to raise awareness about gender inequality.

But European women did not win the right to vote until after World War I. Such basic rights as having access to higher education, being able to testify in court or getting a divorce did not become a reality until the 20th century. It all sounds very distant, especially for younger generations, but Portuguese women were granted the right to secondary education less than 100 years ago.

Lack of access to education has conditioned the labor market for several generations. Although each country has its own history, women were for many centuries banned from certain jobs - or at least tended to look for certain occupations rather than others, which were considered "men's jobs."

Heavier and more dangerous tasks were reserved for men, but also the so-called "technical" professions. The labor market followed the rationale that dictated the division of domestic tasks: women would look after the kitchen, sewing, children; men would be in charge of repairing and maintaining the house: plumbing, carpentry and electricity.

From the electrician to the data analyst

A company the size of EDP can be seen as a fairly faithful sample of society. And given its area of activity, it is not surprising that for many years it attracted mostly male employees.

But things have been changing. From the mid-twentieth century onwards, the number of women in secondary and higher education institutions has grown exponentially. And women's interest in more technical sectors - when given the opportunity - has also grown.

On the other hand, technological evolution itself has created a large number of promising new professions, typical of the digital age, which women and men have embraced with equal eagerness. 

If in the early 20th century most EDP employees were engineers and electricians, now - although men still clearly outnumber women - the company comprises a large array of specializations. 

Women and men with various nationalities and academic backgrounds work together, reflecting the idea that diversity creates creativity, efficiency, and good results.

Gender-neutral communication

Sara Miguéns has been working at EDP for 6 years, in an area that is not new to women - communication. With a degree in Strategic Communication and a master's in Change Management, it was in the IT area that Sara Miguéns eventually came to apply her knowledge.

Sara Miguéns

 

I have always worked more with women because communication areas usually have more women. However, my department is mostly constituted by men. It was a complex change because we are talking about different energies, different dynamics, and the challenges of working with typically different people are greater.

Sara Miguéns, Digital Global Unit

Sara Miguéns

It is common sense that working with men and women is the same: there are no specifically gender-related differences in expertise, dedication or knowledge. However, men and women are not the same, and Sara knows this applies to the internal communication area.

"Our events, for instance, must be very focused because we have (many) women, but we have mostly men. So we have to be very careful not to do things that might be uncomfortable for someone, it must be balanced for everybody," she says. Such is the case when trying to organize a dance workshop for employees, or a football match - it's not easy to please everyone.

Sara believes she is "making a difference in the context of IT as a woman because everyone must realize that you can be competent and work in any context whether you are a woman or a man," she argues.  

A leader in a "men's sector"

'Leader' is one of the few non-gendered nouns in the Portuguese language, and one could argue that Jacinta Carvalho personifies this. With an 'out-of-the-box' mindset, as she herself says, and an infectious easy-going attitude, she has been at EDP for 18 years and is currently in charge of EDP Valor's Robotic Automation Excellence Center.

Her IT and Computer Engineering training at the IST focused on Industrial Robotics, and she is passionate about the potential of both the sector and her department. Her responsibilities include identifying crucial repetitive tasks that can be assigned to a 'robot' (or, to be more precise, to a software product).

Thanks to robotics, humans can devote more time to tasks that add value to the company. Manually organizing and clustering data is a time-consuming and error-prone task that used to be carried out by people. Now, with the help of machines, humans can easily access previously organized data and devote their time to what really matters: analyzing results and defining strategies.

In accordance with the EDP Group's diversity and inclusion policies, Jacinta Carvalho makes a conscious "effort" to recruit as many women for her team as men.

Jacinta Carvalho

 

Rather than working with men or women, we want to work with people who are interesting, proactive, and result-oriented. And that is far more important than gender.

Jacinta Carvalho, EDP Valor

Jacinta Carvalho

The new generation of EDP women

Maria Nogueira is part of a group of 30 trainees who started their activity at EDP earlier this year: 15 young women and 15 young men. At the age of 22, she says she is too young to perceive any kind of gender discrimination, even if she opted for a typically masculine degree: Computer Engineering, specializing in Big Data and Machine Learning Algorithms.

"My training area is predominantly male, no doubt about that. In my course, for instance, the year I went to college, there were 150 new students and only 15 were girls. So for me it's normal to be in a room where I'm the only girl."

This generation sees gender equality as something natural, thanks to an evolution that has occurred in previous generations. Women are also supposed to work and household chores are meant to be equally shared - this is common sense. But there is still a long way to go, of course. 

Maria Nogueira

 

In my parents' generation [gender equality] did not fully exist yet and men still believed that a woman's role was to look after her family. But I think that now they know that if they don't do this, if they don't take part in household chores, if they don't take care of the children, they won't go very far... because women no longer accept it.

Maria Nogueira, Trainee, Class of 2019

Maria Nogueira

Awareness of the problem

"Mansplaining occurs when a man explains something to a woman in a paternalistic, arrogant, condescending way, and is typically used when in fact the woman knows more about the subject than the man." The explanation is given by Tomás Moreno, Advisor to EDP Inovação's Board of Directors.

Tomás Moreno cannot speak for all workers, but he was aware of the existence of this concept, made popular through Internet 'memes'. He says that EDP is a company that is concerned with diversity and that the role of women in the workplace is not different from that of men.

Tomás Moreno

 

It's important to have more women [in the company] because diversity typically leads to more creative, more efficient and more effective teams, and this is what we are looking for in any company.

Tomás Moreno, Advisor to EDP Inovação's Board of Directors

Tomás Moreno

In fact, raising employee awareness of the possibility of discrimination - even if it is involuntary - is one of the company's goals. That is why EDP has created the Unconscious Bias training module, with Tomás Moreno as one of the attendees.

Created in 2017, the training has already reached more than 1600 employees and seeks to make people realize that, sometimes unconsciously and automatically, we base our decisions on preconceived ideas and stereotypes. According to Moreno, awareness of this process allows employees to realize that "every time we make a decision... our brain is making a biased decision, so we can pro-actively correct it."

Tomás Moreno believes that EDP is "a company with a somewhat heavy history, consisting of many years of culture and recruitment" which have somehow conditioned diversity and help explain why the situation is not ideal yet. However, the company has committed to recruiting 27% of women by 2030, a goal that reflects the desire to continue "the way forward."

What do women think?

Although EDP and the labor market, as well as society in general, are taking important steps toward treating men and women alike, it is not uncommon for women to experience bizarre situations - just because they are women - in their personal and professional lives.

Social pressure to dress up and wear high heels or make-up is still a reality. On the other hand, being there for their families, being the first caregivers when children are sick or carrying out household chores is an extra burden that is not equally distributed between husband and wife. And this obviously has consequences for career progression.

In the words of Jacinta Carvalho, "being different and going further requires time. Time to study, read, talk to people, and discuss ideas.… And that's where I think that women - because they have less free time, because they have to reconcile family and work life more than most men do - have to work harder in order to achieve a prominent position in the labor market.

Although things have changed, women are still asked questions like "How can you leave your kids alone?" or "Does your husband accept this situation?" - even those who hold high corporate positions. But "the way is made by walking along it" and both society and the business fabric are gradually accepting women as the owners of their destinies.

EDP's commitment

Gender equality is one of EDP's priorities in terms of social responsibility, as it is one of the goals established by the company's Diversity and Inclusion Policy. The latter seeks to ensure equality for all employees in terms of recruitment, training, career management, wages and social benefits.

EDP understands diversity as something that brings added value to the Group and therefore must be fostered by means of concrete everyday actions. These include awareness-raising campaigns among employees, focusing on inequality and prejudice situations but also on the identification of possible barriers to equality - and measures to overcome them.

Paula Carneiro

 

The focus is on creating a diverse and inclusive culture. It is important to address this issue and give it a prominent place in the management of the organization's employees, promoting mutual respect and recognizing difference as a source of vitality and innovation.

Paula Carneiro, EDP Group HR Director

Paula Carneiro

Some of the measures seek to improve the balance between the employees' personal and professional lives, while others seek to involve society. Such was the case of 'Tagga o Teu Futuro' [Tag Your Future] an initiative which has reached more than 5000 Portuguese students, encouraging them to follow their dream careers and fight prejudiced ideas about the professions they should follow.

The creation of several strategic partnerships - with the Forum of Equality Organizations, the Portuguese Women Network and Portuguese Women in Tech, the Portuguese Association for Diversity and Inclusion - or, more recently, the participation in the 'Equal by 30' campaign, are part of a collective, cross-cutting effort across the Group to drive the company and society towards greater equality and justice, in terms of gender and more.

The "right side" of history

Whether by genetic design or as a social construct, women and men have since times immemorial been organized to have complementary duties for the better functioning of the family and, ultimately, for the survival of our species.

However, these duties, or roles, have been under question. Why should women cook the family meals if men happen to be the partners with the greatest culinary talent? Should not men be given the opportunity (and education, both in the family and in school) to be the main caregivers? And could it be that women, precisely because they are used to managing the household, are better prepared for managing teams, projects and companies?

The struggle for gender equality is nothing more than the individual's search for the right to self-determination, against prejudices and stereotypes. Whether such self-determination is the desire to take on the role of a family caregiver, to pursue a successful career, or both. 

It is important that family be the center of this line of thought - for it is from there that it can spread throughout society. But as societies are multifarious organizations that communicate in a multidirectional way, the state and the corporate world also have a role to play in this struggle. A struggle which the EDP Group is proud to be part of, by disseminating the values of the future and therefore by being on the right track.