The energy industry is all about transition; the transition to carbon-zero, sustainability…and gender equality. In an area so progressive in its technology and expertise, one would assume that its attitudes and advances towards gender equality would be parallel. However, a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) told a different tale.
In a worldwide survey of individuals working in the renewable energy sector, 60% of males polled responded that they did not think females faced any gender-related barriers at all. On the other hand, 75% of women countered that they did face obstacles simply because they were female. It was perhaps the same men who expressed the belief that there was no gender pay divide, whereas a huge 71% of women said that they understood that men were better off.
The sheer numbers (or lack) of women working in renewables (32%) globally should speak volumes; however this is still considered favourable when compared to other sectors of energy production, such as oil and gas.
Director General of IRENA, Adnan Z. Amin said of the report:
“Accelerating the deployment of renewables can alleviate poverty, create jobs, improve welfare and strengthen gender equality. Still, to fully realise this potential, the renewables industry has to tap a wider pool of talent — notably that of women, who have been largely underrepresented, depriving the energy transition of critical capacities. The renewable energy industry needs to engage and retain more women — and promote them — to fill its growing needs for skills. Their leadership and contributions will be crucial to ensuring that the energy systems of the future address the needs of modern societies and leave no one behind. If the global energy transformation is to drive sustainable growth and development, it needs to be inclusive in every sense. And women have to be part of it.”
In a world where funding or politics might hinder the progress of change, this is one transition for which we can all take responsibility. Awareness and understanding is key – after all, if you don’t even think you have a problem, how can you ever go about fixing it?
IRENA proposed a number of significant steps for organisations to take when planning their diversity strategy, first looking at the integration of women’s experiences, expertise, capacities and preferences into their framework from the start. At lower than 15% representation amongst the industry’s decision makers – only 8% of the top 80 UK energy companies have a female executive board member (POWERful Women), it is no wonder that there is a shortage of talent across businesses in the field. Having a say in shaping company policy will play a huge part in making the industry more accessible for prospective female employees. This joined with tailored training and skills development programmes will help to promote career opportunities and create entry points in a variety of levels and fields across the renewables value chain.
One such programme is POWERful Women founded by Baroness Verma and Laura Sandys with Ruth Cairnie, a former Shell Executive Vice President, as Industry Chair. The initiative’s target is 40% of middle management, and 30% of executive board positions, to be female by 2030 through supporting career paths and providing practical recommendations to increase diversity. Click here for a look back at POWERful Women’s networking session at All-Energy 2018 where we heard from ScottishPower CEO, Keith Anderson – a strong advocate of diversity in the energy sector, who emphasised that it was down to men as well as women to aid the transition. There will be another POWERful Women gathering at All-Energy /Dcarbonise 2019 on 16 May.
Strengthening the prominence of females in diverse roles across the energy sector is fundamental to encourage and inspire future talent. Four-year old Hannah Summers made the news recently after she told her mother she wished she was a boy because she wanted to be a fire-fighter, thus ensuring female fire-fighters up and down the country came out in full force to show Hannah that girls could be fire-fighters too! Different job, but the same message: visibility is key. How will young women ever aspire to become the CEO of a multi-national energy company without ever seeing it as a possibility?
Watch this space for our next post where we’ll be showcasing some of the initiatives paving the way for a diverse energy future.