“Every woman should consider a job in operations, it’s not a man’s world anymore.”

Friday 8th March 2024

When Chelsea-Lee Grimes, 34 from the Midlands, joined Severn Trent as an apprentice 17 years ago, she didn’t anticipate that she’d soon land a role leading 18 men in an operational job - and it being one of the best jobs she’s had.

Her stint working in a busy, operational role gave her the passion and drive to help encourage more women into operational roles and is a key member of the company’s Women in STEM and Ops group - that’s been leading the celebrations of International Women’s Day.

The group supports and encourages women to take up roles in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), helps drive gender equality and inclusion throughout the business and works hard to make sure the water industry is a place for all, and not just men.

They’ve recently celebrated some great achievements, such as enhancing the company’s maternity policy to 46 paid weeks, nearly tripling its existing offer.

Chelsea, who now works in the company’s land and planning team, reflects on her role in operations, and encourages anyone to consider it.

“Working in operations was really a turning point for me. When I left sixth form, I didn’t have a clue about what career I wanted, but an apprenticeship appealed, I could earn money and learn. It meant I could buy my house at 19, and once I was in Severn Trent, I had the opportunity at my feet to carve out a career.

“I gained loads of experience in varied roles, from customer services, to marketing, training and operations – and my time in operations really rounded me and helped shape me as a person and saw my development into a business leader.”

Juggling being a single mum, with a full-time career while studying part time at university, Chelsea was already used to competing demands and taking on new challenges.

Her role in operations saw her lead a team of 18 men, as repair and maintenance operatives helping to find and fix leaks 24/7 with her role requiring flexibility, being on site, office based and working on incidents.

Chelsea said: “I remember my first day standing in front of the team nervous as anything overly worried about if they thought I was up to the job, but straight away they all made me feel supported. They all stepped up to help train me, show me the ropes and have my back so I could succeed and be a proper team together.

“I feel really fortunate that I had the opportunity to jump into an operational role and have the complete backing of the team – it wasn’t without a few challenges, like back when I first joined PPE wasn’t really geared towards women. Might not seem like a big thing, but being able to feel comfortable and safe at work is important – luckily now, we’ve got a whole female’s section, including maternity PPE.”

Severn Trent’s commitment to inclusivity and women in the workplace was also demonstrated when the company created and rolled out the first PPE inclusive hijab. Meaning more female Muslim engineers could look to work in engineering and operations and feel comfortable.

“I loved the challenges and opportunities my time in operations gave me, it helped spur me on to make sure that I can help encourage and inspire other women into STEM and male majority roles through promoting gender equality and get the learning and opportunities.

“Traditionally utility companies, due to the nature of the work was male dominated, but it’s not the case anymore – even at leadership level Severn Trent’s recognised for its commitment to women in leadership at board level with us having a female CEO, Chair and CFO. I feel so proud to be part of a progressive company like this and leading the way – and hopefully encouraging more young women to consider STEM careers.”

Read more about Chelsea’s story and life and careers at Severn Trent over at: Chelsea's story | Life at ST | Careers | Severn Trent Plc