The Energy sector in the UK has an equality issue at the very highest level, with female leaders lacking. In 2014, 61% of the top 89 UK based energy companies, this includes oil, gas, power and renewables didn’t have a single woman on the board. Whilst equality may not be a 50/50 ratio, there is a severe lack of female representation at the highest level.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) launched Igniting Change: Building the pipeline of female leaders in energy report in 2015. In 2016 Igniting Change 2 report was announced with some startling statistics.

What the statistics say

Out of the top 89 UK based energy companies 62% of them don’t have women on their boards, this illustrates a decrease in female representation at the highest level of the Energy Sector. Women hold just 9% of board positions (and 6% of executive seats) in the energy sector, same as 2014, meaning no progress was made. Finally, only 8% of companies have 25% female representation on the board, this is a 1 point increase from 2014. The stats show that progress is slow and cumbersome at best.

It is in the renewable sector that progress is being made with 18% of board positions occupied by women, with nuclear and oil & gas lagging considerably with 8 and 7 percent respectively.

The POWERful Women (PfW) target is 30% by 2030. With dramatic changes to the energy market amid a part or whole crisis, it is a difficult period to change attitudes and assumptions. But there is opportunity to improve the situation with 20% of board seats falling vacant every year.

The statistics highlight that within a year there has been little to no movement in change within the energy sector.

But research shows that the statistics are bad business, ‘which is a luxury the industry just cannot afford at the moment’. They show that there is a significant distance to go to bring female representation within the energy sector to reports suggestion.

Changing chronic attitudes and assumptions

There are several measures that could be implemented by CEOs such as leading by example, set and communicate targets and building a solid pipeline.

However, Adriènne Kelbie, CEO of the Office for Nuclear Regulation rightly observed ‘It’s no longer about policies, it’s now about attitudes’. The report suggests that HR could drive improvements by demanding diverse shortlists, report on gender diversity and align talent management processes.

The report also suggests women could do more, but this isn’t blaming women, it is suggestions that could improve diversity. It sets out from research that women could seek out opportunities, build your network and sponsorship and be aware of, and learn, the rules to improve their chances. It continues to say that businesses should examine what assumptions and barriers stand in the way of women.

An example cited, is the well-documented phenomenon that women are less likely to put themselves forward and rule themselves out of a promotion despite being qualified, than their male counterparts.

This is down to intrinsic attitudes within the businesses themselves. PfW began, in summer 2015, their POWERful Connections mentoring programme.

No easy answer

With several businesses pledging to improve female representation, including British Gas, Scottish Renewables, EDF Energy plus many others. Changing attitudes and assumptions rooted is a difficult and long task, with no easy answer but PwC have put forth 2 comprehensive reports and strategies to begin to deal with the issue of Inequality at the highest level of the energy sector.