The energy sector has seen slow progress in gender parity on company boards, with women occupying just 15% of executive director positions in 2022 – up by just one percentage point on last year.
According to the annual state of the nation report from POWERful Women – a body that campaigns for greater female representation in the energy sector – and PwC, only 20 of the top 80 UK energy providers have any women in executive director roles.
POWERful Women has set the sector a target of 30% female representation in executive director positions by 2030, yet the number of companies that have acheived this goal internally have declined, from 15 last year to 11 this year.
There was only a three percentage point increase in the number of board seats occupied by women, rising to just 27% in 2022. This is still well below the 33% target the Hampton Alexander Review challenged FTSE 350 firms to meet by 2020.
However, there was some positive signs of progress, with the proportion of energy companies with all-male boards falling from 28% to 23% in a year.
The power and utilities sector has more women on boards than oil and gas (28% v 26%) and more women in executive director roles (18% v 13%). However, oil and gas companies are making faster progress, with the proportion of female-held executive director roles rising five percentage points in a year, whereas this proportion remained static at 18% at power and utilities firms.
POWERful Women chair Katie Jackson said progress had been “glacial” and that it was unacceptable that three-quarters of top energy companies still had no female executive directors.
“We require a step change on gender diversity in UK energy as we strive to reach net zero,” she said.
“The current triple energy crisis – of price, security and climate change – does not reduce or excuse the importance of diversity. Indeed, the solution to addressing all three can only be reached by having an energy sector truly representative of society on every dimension. We can’t continue to ignore a vast pool of female talent that is critical for innovation, leadership and business success during the energy transition.”
We can’t continue to ignore a vast pool of female talent that is critical for innovation, leadership and business success during the energy transition” – Katie Jackson, POWERful Women
UK energy minister Greg Hands said: “We need better representation at the top and more women in leadership roles to drive towards our goal of clean, home-grown, affordable energy for Britain.
“I welcome the commitments that energy leaders have made but more needs to be done. I encourage the whole sector to work together and deliver real progress on gender diversity including through initiatives such as the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review.”
Elisabeth Hunt, PwC energy and infrastructure deals tax partner, said: “Firms have shown their agility in responding to a wealth of challenges from decarbonisation to more recent issues such as the Ukraine war and the cost of living crisis. If they are to achieve the 2030 targets, it’s vital they harness this speed and dexterity to drive more female talent into each sector and recognise the benefits and skills a diverse workforce and leadership team can provide.
“We’re also seeing an increase in convergence of sectors as the focus on net zero intensifies. This brings with it a range of different mindsets and skills. Women leaders have a key role to play in nurturing and harnessing this broad talent pool, driving innovation, boosting retention and developing skills among the workforce. This needs to filter all the way down to inspire girls to engage with STEM subjects throughout their education and business has a key role to play in setting the tone for this.”
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