Virgin Media has launched a pilot project to increase the number of women field technicians it employs.
The 12-14 week pilot is being launched in four locations in May – Flitwick, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cardiff. It aims to recruit 20 women and to address the lack of female candidates for the post of field technician – the people who install and repair Virgin Media equipment.
Currently out of 1,400 technicians only 20 are female. Senior HR Business Partner Rachel Lambert says the women who do the job say they love it, but she accepts it is not for everyone. It is a physical job, she adds, given technicians often have to work outside installing equipment, but full training is offered. “Anyone can be trained to do it,” says Rachel.
Virgin Media feels it is important to do whatever they can to raise awareness about the role among women who might think it is not something for them due to social stereotypes. “We are looking to see whether we might have more women candidates if they knew about the roles more,” says Rachel.
One selling point at a time when the gender pay gap is attracting a lot of attention is that the entry level pay for field technicians is £22.5K with good bonus options and a van. The starting salary for call centre positions which tend to attract more women is £15.5-16K. Moreover, female field technicians have tended to progress up the career ladder faster than men, often to management positions.
Up to now field technician roles have been full time at Virgin Media. As part of the pilot part-time hours will be considered. “We want to see if that makes a difference or if it is just how they view the job that puts women off,” says Rachel. “We want to break down any barriers.”
The pilot positions are being advertised widely through specialist jobs boards, leafleting of local communities and social media, for instance, at women on Facebook who have particular interests which match with the job. Existing female field technicians are also spreading the word. Virgin Media’s careers site will feature female case studies and interviews. The job adverts will also feature inclusive language and will state specifically that the pilot is an opportunity for women. Any positive discrimination will be for the duration of the pilot only and permanent positions will be open to all employees.
The pilot locations were chosen carefully. They needed to be in areas where Virgin Media doesn’t find it easy to recruit and where the quality of the hubs – or little red sheds – where equipment is stored and team meetings happen is high. The managers in the areas are totally on board with the project and all have been through unconscious bias training to ensure they treat women the same as men and aren’t, for instance, overprotective of women. Virgin Media will also offer the women taking part in the pilot a buddy or mentor if they want one and they are keen to set up a female field technicians networking group. There will be a virtual pilot welcome meeting so they can get to know each other.
The project will be evaluated closely to see if the number of women applying to be field technicians increases and to get feedback from the women taking part.