Why we need gender diversity to achieve net zero

08 June, 2022

Elisabeth Hunt

Infrastructure Tax Leader, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0)7841 491410


The skills women bring to the workplace, such as innovation and inclusion, will be vital to help the energy sector transition to net zero.

But the latest findings from POWERful Women shows the sector is still way behind other sectors when it comes to gender diversity.

So, how can this change?

The energy sector is going through a huge revolution as it responds to the need for a more secure and stable energy supply.

The move away from oil and gas to cleaner forms of energy is also creating a much more diverse and fragmented group of businesses. Big companies no longer dominate the sector with smaller companies starting to supply, store and deliver cleaner forms of energy.

These dynamics require more creativity and faster innovation than ever before. But we can only achieve this with diverse, agile teams.

But the number of women in the energy sector remains stubbornly low. The latest findings from POWERful Women’s annual Board Statistics data, which covers 80% of the top energy companies in the UK, representing around 30% of the sector’s workforce.

The data shows that:

  • Women hold 27% of board seats (compared to 24% in 2021)
  • Women hold 15% of executive director roles (compared to 14% in 2021)
  • Women make up 29% of the executive pipeline

This is too low. POWERful Women has been clear in its ambition to see women holding 30% of executive board seats and 40% middle management roles by 2030. We are still a long way from that. It’s disappointing that:

  • 23% of the top UK energy companies have no women on boards (compared to 28% in 2021)
  • Only 21 companies out of these 78 companies have any female executive directors.

When compared with the FTSE 350, the sector also appears to be falling behind on gender diversity. According to the FTSE Women Leaders Review, women now hold 39.1% of board seats in FTSE 100s and 36.8% of board seats in FTSE 250s.

So how can we change this?

To bridge the gap, we need a step change. Business has a key role to play in both inspiring and attracting new talent and harnessing and promoting existing talent. This can be achieved in a variety of ways but essentially it requires measurement, leadership and fostering a strong pipeline of talent.

Women make up only a quarter of graduates in core STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). We need to partner with educators to change this; mentoring women who are already studying these subjects and attracting young women earlier in their school career, who have an aptitude for STEM subjects - particularly in engineering and technology, which have the largest gender imbalance.

The 2020 Global Engineering Capability Review recognised that addressing the engineering skills gap is crucial to achieving goals around clean energy, sustainable cities and climate action. The energy sector now needs to inspire a new generation of women, raising the profile of the impact and purpose that a career in the sector can deliver.

One way is to increase the number of apprenticeships targeted at women. Centrica has already announced that women will make up 50% of the 1000 apprentices it will recruit before the end of 2022.

The value that new talent can bring is enormous, but retaining that talent is also essential to making gender diversity a reality. So businesses also need to create an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

The benefits are clear from the data. National Grid was recently listed as one of the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2022. This followed the launch of their new diversity strategy in 2021 and the appointment of their first Chief Diversity Officer. Women now make up 40% of their senior leaders and 33% of their group executives.

Similarly, in March 2022, bp made headlines when it became the only major oil company to have more women than men it is executive leadership team. It went on to make clear that it is now setting its sights on the next tier of management, aiming to have gender parity in its 120 most senior leadership roles by 2025. This focus on the future pipeline will be essential to achieving the much needed step change across the sector.

In short, we need to work along the whole supply chain of talent, to create the diversity and skills we need. The transition to net zero is already happening. There’s no time to wait.

Elisabeth Hunt

Infrastructure Tax Leader, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0)7841 491410


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