Energy sector continues to lag behind UK industries in developing senior female talent - PwC

pwc_logoOnly 6 per cent of executive boards seats in top 100 UK-headquartered energy firms are held by women, according to new report by PwC in association with POWERful Women (PfW).

The figure constitutes just a fifth of the target of 30 per cent by 2030 set by PfW, an industry body that promotes female leadership in the energy sector.

The PwC report also showed the number of board seats held by women in the sector remains static at 9 per cent, in contrast to UK FTSE100 industry-wide levels of 26.1 per cent.

The results show a marked lack of progress in the number of females in senior energy positions over the last 12 months.

One year on from the launch of the first Igniting Change – building the pipeline of female leaders in energy report, which reviewed the number of senior women working in the industry, the latest analysis shows that despite widespread recognition of the benefits of gender equality, the dial hasn’t been shifted on the ground.

The inaugural report, also researched and produced by PwC, revealed that of the top 89 UK-headquartered energy companies2 (including oil and gas, power and renewables), 61 per cent had no females on their board while only 7 per cent had at least 25 per cent female board representation.

According to Igniting Change 2, these figures have only shifted by 1 per cent year-on-year.

The new analysis also reveals that:

  • The number of board seats held by women remains static at 9 per cent
  • Only 6 per cent of UK energy firms sampled had female executive board members (previously 5 per cent) – a fifth of PfW’s executive board level target of 30 per cent by 2030.
  • The proportion of female board executives across key energy sectors has also remained unchanged (nuclear: 8 per cent/ oil and gas: 7 per cent) with the exception of Power and Utilities which has risen by 1 per cent to 18 per cent.
  • The numbers are in stark contrast to the Women on Boards (Davies Review’s) latest update, which shows that the percentage of women on UK boards overall had increased to 26.1 per cent.

    The report’s original recommendations still stand. There clearly needs to be a stronger, more determined focus from CEOs to take a lead.

    Ruth Cairnie, chair, POWERful Women, said: “I really fear that Energy is standing still while many other sectors are now making progress, and at a time when Energy needs diversity more than ever. We need leaders to show real leadership, they are the key.”

    More women need to be encouraged to take up careers in energy at all levels and PfW will continue to work with and encourage all concerned to take more action and ensure the industry doesn’t lag further behind others in the UK.

    While the 2015 report exposed the gap between the inspiring stories of many senior women in the energy sector, and the overall poor statistics, the latest update has simply cemented this worrying trend – and put a spotlight on the need for attitudes to change more consistently across the sector.

    Sir Phillip Hampton
    Sir Phillip Hampton

    Sir Philip Hampton, chair of GlaxoSmithKline of the women on boards review, said: “The POWERful Women initiative, with its clear focus on improving women’s representation at senior levels within the energy sector, is an excellent example of the businesses themselves leading the change. It also shines a welcome spotlight on the highly capable women available within the sector.”

    In interviews with senior female figures, their responses diverged from the actual quantitative results of the analysis. As part of this research, PwC has interviewed over 50 prominent figures (both male and female) in the energy sector to understand their stories, their thoughts on what the barriers are for women in energy, and how those barriers might be overcome.

    Laura Manson-Smith, PwC energy partner and co-author of the report, said: “When we launched our Igniting Change report last year there was widespread shock at the low numbers recorded and recognition of the strong focus needed to drive change across organisation, from developing a sustainable pipeline of young women recruits to strong female leaders.

    “The latest figures show that this general acceptance hasn’t translated into action – and that’s not good enough. The industry should be worried by these numbers and ask why is it so different from others and why does it seem so difficult to change?”

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