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Women leaders in the energy sector increased in 2019 but more work must be done

Credit: Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Advocacy group POWERful Women, in partnership with PwC, this week published the latest ‘state of the nation’ report on gender balance in the UK energy industry.

The 2020 annual board statistics show progress in the number of women occupying board and executive board seats – now 21% and 13% – representing a noticeable shift from last year and progress towards POWERful Women’s target of 30% women occupying executive board roles by 2030.

However, the numbers show that faster progress is needed and that the number of all-male boards in the UK energy sector remains disappointing.

This year’s analysis by PwC for POWERful Women looked at the top 80 companies in the UK energy sector, focusing on the most significant employers.

Specific results show:

  • 21% of board seats in the sector are occupied by women – a noticeable increase from 16% in 2019 and 13% in 2018;
  • 13% of executive board seats are occupied by women – more than double last year’s 6%;
  • 11 companies (15% of those surveyed) have now reached the POWERful Women target for 2030 of having at least 30% of their executive board seats occupied by women;
  • Since the last review in 2019, there are 25 more female board members and the number of female executive directors has increased by two thirds.

However:

  • More than a third (38%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women on their boards at all – an improvement on last year’s 42% but this remains unacceptable;
  • More than two-thirds 79%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women occupying executive board seats. This compares with 89% last year.

There is mounting evidence that greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes. Indeed, a May 2020 report from McKinsey found that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.”

In response to the lack of women at the top of the UK energy sector, in 2018, POWERful Women launched the Energy Leaders Coalition (ELC), a group of CEOs committed to increasing gender diversity and inclusion within organizations globally.

Additionally, an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) January 2020 brief showed that opportunities exist to improve gender balance, make greater use of women’s skills and make renewables inclusive. The IRENA brief entitled, Wind Energy: A Gender Perspective, focused on the presence of women across the wind energy value chain.

In 2019, POWERGEN International awarded five women with Excellence in Character Awards. The nominees, Linette Casey, Sue Kelly, Jennifer Fernandez, Ann Robertson-Tait and Andrea Lucan, were nominated due to their traits of initiative, integrity and collaboration.

Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women, said, “This year we have seen the most progress since we started compiling board statistics five years ago. The increase in the number of women in executive director positions is particularly noteworthy.

“Special attention is needed with all the COVID-19 disruption to ensure that we don’t fall back on old habits and lose the progress that has been made – especially in building a strong pipeline of female talent for senior leaders who will tackle the energy challenges that lie ahead.”

Steve Jennings, Energy and Utilities Lead, PwC, commented, “The progress being made by energy companies to improve gender balance on their boards is to be welcomed, but the pace of improvement makes it clear that there is a long journey ahead of us if 2030 targets are to be met.

“As the sector moves through the energy transition and adapts plans for a world disrupted by COVID-19, Boards will want to act on the advice of POWERful Women, who have been tirelessly campaigning for improvements to the balance of diversity.”

Also, Andrea Lucan, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, global project development and finance, and winner of Excellence in Character Awards states, “I consciously work to support and develop the women associates at my firm, particularly ensuring they get the same business development opportunities as their male counterparts.”


You are now able to register for POWERGEN International 2020! Make sure to follow POWERGEN’s social media platforms to stay up to date on recent news regarding the event, as well as future speakers such as the women above.