BT division makes call to women engineers

BT's Openreach division launched a campaign to attract more women engineers.

BT Group's Openreach division has launched a campaign to attract more women engineers, hoping to expand its potential talent pool and better reflect the population it serves.

The effort includes recruitment ads that feature women prominently, the chance of child-friendly working hours and more attention to safety for engineers who make house calls. The company also hopes to tone down the "macho culture" on the job by enforcing rules against discrimination more strictly, said Andrew Jones, an Openreach managing director.

Openreach was created about five months ago. It pulled together into one group BT's 25,000 field engineers responsible for the "last mile" of the company's networks.

Women account for roughly 3 percent of Openreach's engineers today. Its "near-term" goal is to boost that to about 10 percent, which would be on the high end of other utility companies it has studied, Jones said.

The decision to attract more women wasn't driven by a skills shortage, he said. "What we're looking for is higher levels of innovation and creativity. Wherever you have limited diversity you limit your potential workforce and therefore limit the potential for creativity."

"We also want to reflect the society with which we work. Our people meet thousands of customers every day and many are women, so we want to reflect that in our workforce."

The campaign, called Open2all, got under way about a month ago, so it's too early yet to gauge results, he said. The company shouldn't fall foul of discrimination laws because it's not mandating internal targets for the number of women it wants to hire, Jones said.

"We're just trying to take a subtle bias out of the system because of the way we present ourselves. Our goal is to attract the best engineers," he said.

The program is one of numerous efforts to attract more women into the male-dominated IT industry. Accenture launched its "Great Place to Work for Women" campaign a few years ago. Hewlett-Packard Co. and others have also launched programs to encourage more women to take up engineering.

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