Lack of women in UK energy sector risks industry being ill-equipped for Net Zero

Only 18 out of 80 companies have female executive directors, with women holding just 24% of all board seats and 14% of executive director positions.

POWERful Women and PwC have today published the latest ‘state of the nation’ on gender balance at the top of the UK energy industry.

The 2021 annual board statistics show the industry is lacking in gender diversity in its senior ranks, with year-on-year figures on female representation remaining alarmingly low.

This lack of diversity and talent lowers companies’ ability to innovate and meet the urgent challenges of the energy transition.

The latest data shows that the energy sector remains significantly below the 33% by 2020 target for women on FTSE boards and has a long way to go before meeting POWERful Women’s target of 30% for women in executive director roles by 2030.

The prevalence of all-male boards and the extremely small number of companies with any female executive directors remains disappointing.

Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women, said: “Our energy industry is sitting centre stage of the green recovery. It has to transform itself completely and support the transition for all other sectors. Yet, woefully, we still lack the diversity we need in the top ranks.

“This year’s figures show that we are ignoring a vast pool of female talent – only 18 out of 80 companies have any female executive directors, for example. That doesn’t bode well for success in the urgent race to Net Zero. We need to deliver diversity much faster if our sector and our economy are going to be fit for the future.”

Energy Minister and the UK’s International Champion on Adaption and Resilience for COP26, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “I am passionate about championing diversity and increasing the representation of women in the energy sector. Not only will talented female minds help the industry transition to a green economy but they will inject innovation and creativity ensuring our energy sector is fit for the future.

“2021 is a pivotal year for the energy sector to support our commitments to tackle climate change and build back greener from the pandemic. As the industry transitions, diversity and inclusion must be high up on the agenda.”

This year’s analysis by PwC UK for POWERful Women looks at the composition of the boards of the top 80 most significant UK energy employers, estimated to comprise more than 150,000 jobs in the industry.

The results show:

  • 24% of all board seats across the sector are occupied by women
  • 14% of executive director seats are occupied by women
  • 28% of companies (22) still have no women on their board
  • More than two-thirds of companies (62) have no women in executive director roles – the same as last year
  • Only 18 out of the top 80 UK energy companies have any female exec directors.

When it comes to meeting industry targets, 25 of the 80 companies (31%) have met the 2020 target of 33% for women on boards set by the Davies/Hampton-Alexander Review. This is good news but the energy sector remains behind the UK FTSE as a whole, which met the target last year.

It is positive to see that 15 companies already meet POWERful Women’s 2030 target for 30% women in executive director roles, although with fewer than 10 years to go it is clear that many more companies need to make progress in this respect and appoint women to these roles.

Elisabeth Hunt, PwC energy partner, said: “Our industry continues to completely reinvent itself in the face of climate change and the 2050 Net Zero target. This transformation, at both an industry and individual company level, can only happen successfully if the entire pool of talent is harnessed to meet its full potential. That’s why monitoring the progress of female representation is critical.”

Evidence shows that greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes. It has also been estimated that 400,000 people will need to be recruited into the workforce over the next 30 years to achieve the Government’s Net Zero target, and that the UK energy sector needs to double in size.

Image: Shutterstock

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