International Womens Day: “We’re creating an environment in which everyone can flourish”

It’s International Women’s Day, a celebration of women’s achievements and a day that flies the flag for creating a better, more inclusive world. At OFR, we strive to embody these values by fostering an environment where everyone has the opportunity to shine. Here, our People Director, Lucy Kirkup, shares her perspectives.

The engineering landscape has changed in recent years, and I’ve been privileged to witness the sector’s shift towards greater inclusivity. It’s heartening to witness individuals from diverse backgrounds, now flourishing within the field. Despite this progress, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the existing gaps.  Women remain underrepresented in certain engineering fields, and we will continue to focus our efforts in narrowing this divide. 

OFR: an inclusive workplace 

Ever since OFR was founded in 2016, we’ve been championing inclusivity for women – in fact for all underrepresented groups – and it’s a cornerstone of our ethos. 

We’ve dedicated ourselves to cultivating an environment where every individual can thrive, regardless of their background or identity, with policies in place to protect everyone ensuring that they can not only flourish at work but in every aspect of their lives.

A fundamental aspect of our approach is that we’ve never tied our expectations to presenteeism – something that can disproportionately affect women balancing childcare and caregiving responsibilities. Our priority is empowering our team to be able to fulfill their roles effectively from wherever they need to be. Whether it’s in the office or at home due to school schedules or other commitments, we’re committed to supporting and encouraging flexible working arrangements that accommodate individual needs. A pertinent example being the call that I have received while writing this, to collect my unwell son from school!

Our policy has been there since day one, it, wasn’t just born from the pandemic or as a reactive response to supporting women in the workplace. I’m proud that we’ve always been able to support colleagues in that way. 

Additionally, we’ve been proactive in our support for new parents, and our shared leave policy empowers everyone at OFR to navigate the early stages of parenthood according to their preferences and needs. While the policy is inclusive for everyone, acknowledging the roles of both mums and dads, we recognise that the balancing act has historically placed a heavier burden on women. This policy was a stride forward in ensuring that the women in our workforce who choose to embark on motherhood are fully supported, allowing them to pursue their parenting aspirations without sacrificing their career ambitions.

We continue this commitment throughout the early years too, my colleague Kate recently wrote about OFR’s support as she adapted her working week to accommodate nursery changes and her husband working away. We understood her irregular hours and encouraged her to be present domestically and professionally as best as she could. No questions asked. 

Fast forward to today and we’re still finding new ways to educate and advocate  women’s issues. Earlier this year for example, we invited both women and men to participate in an external CPD training session focused on understanding the impact of menopause. This session provided invaluable insights into the physical and emotional aspects of menopause, equipping participants with practical strategies to navigate this phase of life with empathy and understanding.

And we continue to provide opportunities for all colleagues, regardless of gender, to enhance their skills and knowledge throughout their careers here. Whether it’s through our inclusive Technical Institute, where colleagues can engage in professional development sessions, or via external organisations and educational institutions, we’re dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the chance to grow and thrive.

Challenging perceptions 

Undoubtedly, we’ve encountered challenges, and a significant frustration for us lies in dispelling the misconception that our workplace perpetuates outdated industry stereotypes. At OFR, such perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth; our culture is underpinned by policies that not only demonstrate our awareness of every individual’s needs, but that also illustrate our proactive approach in addressing them effectively.

We’re not simply quietly addressing this, ; rather, we’re actively encouraging our entire workforce, including men, to engage with and understand the challenges our colleagues may encounter daily and to provide the necessary support. 

International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating the remarkable women within our workforce and industry; it’s about fostering a culture where everyone at OFR recognises and appreciates the achievements of women in engineering, and collectively working towards dismantling any remaining barriers that our female colleagues may encounter in the future. Acknowledging our role in creating an engineering industry that is truly diverse and inclusive. 

Together, we strive to create an environment where all individuals can thrive, regardless of gender or background.


Lucy Kirkup

HR Director

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