Women hold less than a quarter of all jobs in energy production and distribution, despite making up almost half of the global workforce. For senior managers in the energy industry, the number is even lower: just 14%.
The number of women working in renewables is higher, at 32%, but it’s clear more needs to be done to encourage women into the sector.
The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that there will be almost 29 million jobs in renewable energy by 2050. Given the way the industry is now, things need to drastically change if the sector is going to achieve gender parity by then.
Studies have shown that energy companies with boards that are at least one third female have better profits than those that aren’t. Profits come from efficiency, but also innovation, and diversity has an important role to play there as well.
Research shows that companies with higher levels of diversity are 70% more likely to capture new markets, and 75% more likely to get innovative ideas to market. Without women in the organisation, companies are missing out on new opportunities for growth.
While not specific to the energy sector, diversity has been shown to help improve cultures at businesses around the world. Rather than everyone thinking the same way, having a broad range of ideas, opinions, experiences, and backgrounds allows for a richer culture at work, making it a more enjoyable place to be for those who otherwise might have felt left out.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry blocking women from starting work in the energy sector is a lack of specialist education around the technical side of the industry.
Many women working in energy do so in administration, not engineering. Companies can change this by funding scholarships, training events, and internships, all of which can help women who might otherwise not be able to gain experience in the industry.
The entire hiring system in the energy sector needs to change to encourage more women to join the industry.
Inclusive recruitment practices must be designed and implemented, with gender-neutral language used in job descriptions. Gender balance evaluations should be carried out across teams, highlighting where new hires could make a positive impact.
Once new women are onboarded, flexi-time should be offered as an immediate option, to make it easier for those who have other commitments or responsibilities.
Safety at work should also be considered, with zero-tolerance policies for harassment or discrimination. These policies must be enforced, showing everyone that bad behaviour will be met with swift punishment. This is how an industry-wide culture can begin to change for the better.
One of the main barriers to entry stopping women from joining the energy industry is the lack of career information and networks that could help them develop the skills and knowledge necessary for moving up the career ladder. Mentorship from senior women in the industry who have experience can be invaluable for women who are just starting their careers in energy.
Of course, energy companies must also ensure that women in high-level roles are promoted beyond the company by being given chances to speak at events and conferences. Promoting women in senior roles inspires other women to join the field, ensuring the next generation of female energy engineers continues to grow.
How many female team members are there in the company? Has this number improved over time?
If female team members are leaving, why is that?
How many female team members are promoted to higher roles within the organisation?
What support or mentorship programmes do we have?
The energy industry is missing out on vital creativity, ingenuity, and diversity of thought and experiences that women can bring to the sector. Until a sustained, concentrated, and unified campaign to recruit more women is realised, the industry will be missing out on individuals that could be helping them excel.
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