The energy sector is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse areas of the economy. A recent report by the professional initiative POWERful Women and consulting giant PwC studied the board member composition of 80 companies in the UK energy space. It found that 38% of the UK’s top energy companies had no women members on their boards. Also, more than two-thirds of the firms lacked a single woman-occupied executive seat. But could things be about to change?
A report published by the Academy of Management entitled ‘Women Directors and Corporate Social Performance Around the World’ provides strong evidence linking gender diverse boards to improved company performance. Companies with more diverse boards are more likely to report their gender composition thanks to increased publicity such as the 30% Club; a global organisation promoting women in senior management.
Louise Kingham, CEO of the Energy Institute and board member for POWERful Women (PfW) comments, “We need more visible female role models and we need louder, clearer leadership and targets. We also need a range of internal policies and programmes – for example, on flexible working and changes to recruitment practice – to remove unconscious bias and become consciously inclusive.”
Stronger efforts need to start from the beginning, during the recruitment process. Careers in the energy sector are generally not being pitched to women through formal channels such as career counsellors, student employment advisors, job centres, recruitment sessions, or career fairs.
While the challenges of recruiting and retaining women are gradually being addressed in the energy sector, there are still persistent barriers to addressing women’s underrepresentation in senior positions and on boards of directors of energy firms. One option for energy companies is to implement targets that are specifically aligned with the company’s strategy for gender diversity and given the same prescient as business’ targets for budgets and performance. Targets should not be focused solely on numerical goals for the number of women in the workplace. They should also include measures of “new ways of working together” – such as more respectful interactions, inclusive meeting practices or flexibility in where and when some of the work gets done.
United Gas and Power are determined to lead the way and ensure we have stronger representation of women in the workforce. Additionally, however, UGP is not merely employing more women to tip this numerical target but rather creating a workplace that empowers and encourages the employment, development and progression of everyone irrespective of gender.
UGP has more people identifying as male than female, with 35% identifying as female. While we’ve a little way to go to reach the 45% national average for female representation, in a typically male dominated sector, we are steadily closing the gap (figures correct as at October 2020).
Importantly, across UGP’s managerial team, women represent 43% of all employees:
Even more significantly, United Gas & Powers Senior Management team is a trail blazing 50/50 male/female split!
The energy sector still has a long way to go but UGP is excited to be leading the way in a more diverse workforce and helping to shape this new landscape.