Lack of gender diversity in UK power sector to hinder energy transition

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The lack of gender diversity in the UK power sector is likely to hinder the country’s energy transition, according to a new study released by PwC and POWERful Women. The study found that the UK energy sector is lacking in gender diversity in its senior ranks.

The State of the nation report has found 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 as greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes, according to the study.

To achieve the UK government’s net-zero goals, some 400,000 people are required to be recruited over the next 30 years and as such a significant amount needs to be female workers, the report urges. This will enable more innovative ideas to be incorporated into the sector resulting in it doubling, a vital requirement to meet the country’s 2050 decarbonisation goals, states the report.

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.

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Other key study findings include:

  • 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.
  • 31% (25 of the 80 companies surveyed) have met the 2020 target of 33% for women on boards whilst 15 companies met POWERful Women’s goal to have 30% women in executive director roles by 2030.

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. 

Elisabeth Hunt, PwC energy partner, adds: “Our industry continues to completely reinvent itself in the face of climate change and the 2050 Net Zero target.

“It’s perhaps understandable why progress towards diversity targets has stalled in the last 12 months as it’s been one of the most stressful times this industry has even seen. This should not preclude, however, the need for boards to react now, looking at their composition and whether they are best positioned to guide their companies into a post pandemic and decarbonised future that will look very different to the past.”