United Utilities named top water company in Europe-wide staff survey of Diversity Leaders

Water company United Utilities has been ranked one of Europe’s most inclusive workplaces - by the people who work there.

The survey by Statista, published in the Financial Times, asked more than 100,000 employees in 16 countries how they perceived efforts to promote diversity, such as gender balance, openness to all forms of sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disability and age in their workplace.

The responses placed United Utilities, which employs more than 5,000 people in the North West of England, at number 110 out of 15,000 companies, making it the top ranking water company. 

Only the top 850 companies earn the status Diversity Leader.

United Utilities’ head of organisational development Julie Newton said the result was phenomenal. “We have certainly been on a journey over the last few years engaging with schools to encourage more women into STEM subjects, mentoring under-represented groups in areas of low social mobility and supporting all our people in raising awareness of diversity in all its forms. 

“The fact that this result is driven by our employees makes it all the more incredible. We have had some pretty impressive challenges. The water industry can seem very traditional, but it’s changing and it’s good to be at the forefront,” she said.

As well as using ambassadors to encourage graduates and apprentices from diverse backgrounds, United Utilities offers work experience to school pupils, which has gone virtual during COVID, with more than 11,000 online attendees in the last three months.

Active employee networks include the company’s LGBTQ+ network, with more than 500 members and allies, which has advocated inclusion both internally and externally, by supporting Pride events across the region, and introducing a ‘Pride in the workplace’ training programme for employees.  Other networks include a gender equality network to promote and support gender equality, including encouraging more girls to consider pursuing a STEM related career, and a multi-cultural network, providing mentoring and support for people from varied backgrounds.

Digital optimisation manager Alex Bryan, from Manchester, who works at the company’s Warrington HQ and is a member of the LGBTQ+ network said: “It’s great to work for a company where there is a focus on inclusion and to be involved in one of the networks that are supporting this. This is a great result and shows we are taking positive steps forward as business. We now need to keep the foot on the gas and do even more to continue to make a positive change in the organisation.” 

Customer and people director Louise Beardmore said: “We need fantastic people to help us deliver a great public service now and into the future, so we’re determined to make sure we’re reaching and recruiting from every part of our community and supporting employees to achieve their full potential and feel valued and included.”

United Utilities was one of the first businesses in the UK to sign the Social Mobility Pledge, and last month hosted former secretary of state and equality minister Justine Greening, as she toured the UK urging businesses to provide opportunity for communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.

The company also earned Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award, recognising the Best Places to Work in 2020.

The top company in the Diversity Leaders list was a French organic food retailer called Biocoop, followed by German company Infineon and then Booking.com, which is based in the Netherlands.