The voice of the energy industry

It's time to #BreaktheBias!

The energy industry is in the middle of a massive transition, building a decarbonised and flexible energy system, helping all customers get the benefits of new technologies from green transport solutions like EVs to warmer homes, and designing and offering new energy services like smart tariffs or digitalisation at every level of the system.  

All of this change will require innovative, creative thinking and it will touch many peoples’ lives.  Therefore, involving more women and more people from diverse backgrounds in the work of the energy sector isn’t just about looking more like the society we serve, but also about making sure we capture all the perspectives we’ll need to do the transition well.

Just 12% of engineers are women,[1] and in general, there are fewer women who take on STEM subjects at school, or pick careers which use STEM skills or in traditional sectors like energy. Some of this is perception – many women (like me!) are dissuaded from doing sciences or engineering by well-meaning teachers or others who thought that it wouldn’t “suit” them, based on narrow stereotypes of the subject.

Campaigns like the WISE Campaign are seeking to change perceptions of science, technology and engineering careers, and in the energy sector industry has been working hard to attract and retain talent into the workforce from diverse backgrounds – the Offshore Wind and Nuclear Sector Deals, for example, have diversity targets for the future workforce. Industry knows they can only achieve these by working closely with the Department for Education, training providers, and others to get people excited about the future of energy when they’re still young.

Inside our industry, there needs to be a focus on leadership and development. Women hold only 14% of Executive Board seats.[2] We need to spot talent, nurture it, and be more open-minded about diverse candidates bring to leadership, not changing them to fit a mould. I wouldn’t be in my job if my Board and team hadn’t accommodated flexible working (before the pandemic made it typical) so I could juggle nursing my daughter and coming back to work. The gender pay gap (17.5% in the energy sector according to the ONS) is in part due to women having less career choices after having children.

Lastly, the impacts of climate change fall more heavily on women and girls. Globally, more women are responsible for sourcing food, water or fuel for their households, are often the primary caregivers, and are often relatively poor. This makes them more exposed to a rapidly changing environment. However, women are also change-makers: the low carbon transition is creating new opportunities for women, from managing community adaptation projects to taking jobs in the nascent renewables sector. I have long argued that climate change is a gender equality issue[3]. For the energy industry, we need to see the energy transition as being about diversity and inclusion too.

Notes to editor:

[1] National Grid, ‘Building the Net Zero Workforce’, 2020

[2] POWERful Women, 2020

[3] https://shivafoundation.org.uk/climate-change-is-a-womens-issue-by-emma-pinchbeck-head-of-climate-change-at-wwf-uk/ 

 

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