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Female flatbed driver

Why More Women Should Consider A Career In Waste Management

Posted in Industry news
On 30 Apr 2019
By Jessica Keynes

Waste collection is at the forefront of the waste industry, regularly positioned in front of the public, whether it be collecting domestic waste or from businesses nationwide. Over 90% of front line employees across the industry are male, so it's no surprise that the waste industry is perceived as a male domain.

Although female waste operators aren't as commonly seen as male operators, they do exist. Flatbed driver Abbie Harmes started working for Biffa after passing her HGV test. She finds working in the waste industry suits her life as a mother as she’s able to be home before her son gets back from school. She also loves working independently and not having to decide what to wear in the morning!

Female flatbed driver 

Abbie participating in International Women's Day #BalanceForBetter campaign

In operations management, the number of women in the industry increases. Traffic dispatch officer, Anya Mills describes “no day as the same” when working in waste management, which is what she loves most about her job. Anya illustrates that the waste industry can be challenging and “takes someone with tough skin, determination and strong stomach” but encourages women to consider a career in the industry and Biffa as it thoroughly “encourages personal development and wellbeing.”

So, how can the waste industry promote and encourage more women to join waste management?

Gill Mulroe is the regional account manager for Biffa’s Yorkshire region. She describes how the waste industry has developed throughout the years and introduced steps to encourage more women to join this booming sector and reverse the conception that it’s an ‘all boy’s club’.

“Few women see this sector as an attractive career causing a real workplace gap. There have been some real changes over the years and some small positive steps forward through bridging the equal pay gap and an introduction to equality and inclusion training within some workplaces.”

In regards to the misconception that the waste industry is little more than the collecting and dumping of rubbish, she explains:

“The landscape of the waste industry has changed very quickly over the last few years, and we have made some real sustainable achievements around landfill diversion, recycling, and closed-loop solutions. This industry is committed to investing heavily in innovation to adapt to this rapidly changing landscape. This is what makes this sector brilliant to work in.”

Waste management has rapidly evolved from its early 20th-century framework of collecting thousands of tonnes of rubbish and disposing of it into landfill. Today, the waste industry is a central pillar in the UK’s economic infrastructure, investing in innovation, progression, the environment, as well as new resources and machinery. It’s a combination of science, politics, business, education, management, logistics and technology, with more and more sectors to be explored.

The waste management industry is quickly turning into a place of positive change, with areas focusing solely on the environmental impact of waste and how to minimise damage. These positive sectors have encouraged not only the interest of women but also of a younger generation, who have become invested in the future and sustainability of their planet.

Taking advantage of the waste industry's media spotlight 

Gill has been in waste management for the last 12 years and has seen the industry change and develop for the better. However, she also feels not enough women are being attracted to the positions available due to lack of promotion in the media of women in waste and the benefits the industry can provide.

“This sector has never seen such a media spotlight, let's take advantage of this and not miss the amazing opportunity we have to showcase so much incredible female talent.”

Her role as regional account manager at Biffa was recently highlighted in a CIWM newsletter article, titled People in Focus: My Working Week. Some of the challenges Gill mentions for the waste industry include the volatility of waste and the ever-changing demands of the job. “We have to be prepared for the customers’ needs to change at short notice. For example, they may have to adjust their supply chain, requiring us to do something differently.”

Gill loves her job due to the vast scope to benefit the environment and society. Revelling in the spotlight the waste management industry is currently in, Gill believes it’s the industry’s opportunity to showcase what it can do and how vital closed-loop recycling is. She insists it is also a chance to highlight women in the industry and to encourage others to join.

Encouraging women is something Gill regularly does as a CIWM councillor, and as part of her role she actively relays the benefits of the waste management industry. She thoroughly believes women offer a different dynamic to a situation and by having an equal balance of not only male and female colleagues but of different attitudes and approaches will encourage further positive developments in the waste management industry.

Biffa and International Women's Day 2019

Biffa recently participated in International Women’s Day where we asked our staff to show their support for their female colleagues thriving in the waste industry by striking this year’s #BalanceForBetter pose.  Some of the women also wanted to express how they felt Biffa and their roles within the waste sector had helped them both professionally and personally.

Lorah Avery IWD

Pontypool Depot Manager, Tracey Davis (left); South Wales Regional Sales Manager, Lorah Avery (middle); Pontypool Traffic Dispatcher, Helen Griffiths (right) 

Views from Biffa’s female employees:

Emma Sloan - Assistant Company Secretary

“Workplace balance for me means, having the ability to work and have enough time to spend with my family. It’s not always easy, and sometimes you need to prioritise between the two. It's finding the balance that suits you as an individual that’s important.”

Lorah Avery - Regional Sales Manager – South Wales

“A few years ago, under tragic circumstances, I lost my mother. I genuinely could not have got through the first few weeks without the support from Biffa. They allowed me time to make arrangements, sent me wonderful flowers and although there were hundreds at the funeral, the only thing that resided in my mind that day was looking up to see several of my colleagues from Biffa taking the time to be there for me. This company has the ultimate level of humanity and always encourages a healthy balance under all circumstances.

For the level of support, Biffa showed me in this awful time, I will forever be grateful and will never forget it.”

Chloe Barnicoat - Environmental Projects Manager

Biffa brings balance to us by supporting our professional and personal development equally; trusting us to get the job done, celebrating our success and rewarding our achievements.