Slow progress on women on boards in energy sector

The energy sector shows pockets of success on female representation on boards, but there is a general sense that progress is very slow.

A woman in a suite stands by a boardoom table with a city backdrop behind her


The leaders of eight of the UK’s leading energy companies are urging a renewed effort to drive up the number of women at senior  levels in the energy sector after figures show slow progress with 42% of companies still having no woman on their boards.

The figures are published by POWERful Women – a professional initiative that seeks to promote the professional growth
and leadership development of women across the energy sector. It measures the performance of the top 80 UK energy companies with regard to senior female representation on a yearly basis.

The 2019 figures show women still occupy only 16% of board seats (a marginal increase from 13% in 2018); only 6% of executive board seats (no improvement on 2018); and 42% of the companies have no women on their boards at all (up from 50% in 2018).

The statistics are being released at POWERful Women’s second annual conference in  London, to be addressed by Energy Minister Claire Perry.

Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women, said: “It is clear that we still have a very long way to go to truly tap into the pool of female talent available in the energy sector so that it is fit to meet the challenges and opportunities of the
energy transformation. The 2019 statistics show that progress is disappointingly slow, and  has even gone backwards when we look at progress towards targets.”

The Energy Leaders’ Coalition was set up last year to drive up the number of women at senior levels and middle management in the UK’s energy industry. It is comprised of EDF Energy, Good Energy, innogy, National Grid,  Ørsted, ScottishPower, Shell and SSE – also published its  First Anniversary Report, ‘Positive Steps to Gender Balance’, which outlines its progress in the past 12 months. The CEOs are urging other energy leaders to follow them in making a public pledge.

The report identifies the barriers to better gender balance within the Coalition’s own companies and includes case studies of diversity and inclusion initiatives that are aiming to overcome the barriers – and the women who are benefiting and an outline of plans for progress, such as sharing best practice on issues like flexible working,  tackling unconscious bias and showcasing positive role models.

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of ScottishPower, said: “The energy industry is changing. If we are to overcome the challenges of becoming a net zero  country by 2045 and make the most of the opportunities – of decarbonisation, digitalisation and changing customer expectations – we also need to make the most of the talent  available. That means addressing the under-representation of women at senior levels.”

Meanwhile, the Tech for Good summit in Paris has seen 45 tech firms pledge to increase the number of women on their management boards to 30% by 2022.

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