Life & Living

Vattenfall’s senior manager in Norfolk working with communities

When Denise Hone joined offshore wind developer Vattenfall, she soon realised that diversity and inclusion is a way of thinking and company culture, rather than a goal.

“If you are right for the role, your gender should never be a topic of discussion. Within Vattenfall there is a clear demonstration of empowerment and that women are in very senior positions.”

Denise is Vattenfall’s senior manager in Norfolk, working with communities, schools, colleges, businesses and organisations, as it develops its Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas wind farms 45 miles off the Norfolk coast-to generate green electricity for nearly four million homes.

After 15 years in engineering, construction and manufacturing for the energy industry, Denise is especially proud to work for a company that supports women from less advantaged backgrounds to thrive in its Catalyse Change CIC learning and mentoring programme.

“Women, and myself as a mother, bring so much to a company. Not only are we excellent at being multiskilled and organised, we show great empathy and compassion, which I believe is important in business,” Denise said.

Denise, mother to nine-month-old Horace and toddler Edith, said this is just one of the many projects Swedish-based Vattenfall offers to women. 

When she visited Vattenfall’s London office she was so impressed that there was a room specially dedicated to women for things like expressing breast milk, “empowering mothers to return to work.”  

“That is where I am lucky with Vattenfall because I have female leadership and a number of them are mums themselves, so they understand that balance,” Denise said.

In her time working in renewable energy, the 38-year-old has arrived at events and been the only female in the room. 

“I was saddened to see women hadn’t had the opportunity to join, or they felt threatened so did not want to be part of the industry. Since I joined the sector I have seen it change, but not as quickly as I would like,” Denise said.

After 15 years working for technical supply chain companies, Denise feels she has come “home” by joining Vattenfall’s Norfolk Zone projects. 

“It’s a forward-thinking company that promotes diversity. Vattenfall’s ethics on work-life balance are so inspiring. The company makes sure you have your family balance and they really care about your wellbeing.”

Recognised for promoting women into higher roles, 57% of Vattenfall’s senior leadership positions are held by women.  

Between Denise and CEO, there are six lines of senior female managers. Compared to 2017 this has almost doubled and the company is aiming for higher still.

“We need to see more women in managerial positions, engineering and pioneering roles,” Denise said. “And not just in this industry.”

Predominantly a male dominated industry, the industry’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal report sets a goal to increase women working in the industry from 16% to 33% by 2030, then to 40% after that.

“Where people have questioned me because of my gender, rather than argue, I have gone away and proved what I can deliver so am judged by my work,” Denise said.

Denise, who lives in Lowestoft, says her “strong mother” was a major influence on her determination to succeed.

“She inspired me to work hard for what you want in life and not to be reliant on anyone.” Denise said. “When we were older and all of school age, my mum pushed herself further retraining to enhance her own career. At a young age this was so inspiring to me and I believe where I get my own work ethic from.” 

Denise, also vice-chair of the East of England Offshore Wind Cluster, hopes Vattenfall’s commitment to appoint more women in managerial positions, and her work in Norfolk, will inspire young women to see career paths in the energy sector.

“Hopefully I can inspire my children, especially my daughter, that you can have a happy family and work life,” Denise said. “It’s all about balance.”

In the next ten years, Denise believes women will be working across the offshore wind industry in all disciplines, roles and environments.

“I hope to continue the work I have only just started with Vattenfall, whilst supporting and inspiring other women to come and work in this wonderful industry that keeps providing me with an amazing career.”

On International Women’s Day, Denise’s advice to young women starting out in their careers is: “Take every opportunity you have, stay true to yourself and believe in your own abilities.”

Join to get our magazine in your inbox