Women are progressing into leadership but board and CEO roles remain male-dominated

24th May 2023
Sheryl Miles

Annual data released by POWERful Women (PfW) and PwC UK reveals that the UK energy sector remains behind the FTSE 350 when it comes to representation of women in key decision-making roles on the board, with very little progress over the last 12 months.

PfW’s 2023 ‘State of the Nation’ report on diversity in the UK’s 80 largest energy employers (representing an estimated combined UK workforce of over 190,000 people) shows that:

  • Women occupy 29% of energy sector board seats (executive and non-executive) – a rise of two percentage points on last year but 11% off the cross-sector target for the FTSE 350, which last year met its 2025 target of 40% women on the board.
  • Women occupy 16% of executive board positions (just one per cent higher than in 2022) and there are just six female CEOs in the top 80 UK energy companies.
  • Twenty-one percent of the top UK energy companies (17 out of 80) still have no women on boards – two percentage points lower than last year, but all-male boards disappeared from the FTSE 350 in 2020.
  • Twenty-two companies (28% of the sector) have met the FTSE Women Leaders Review target of 40% women on the board by 2025.
  • Around three-quarters of the 80 companies still have no women in executive board roles (74% this year versus 75% in 2022).

Unveiling the statistics, Katie Jackson, Chair of POWERful Women, said: “It’s disappointing that we have once again seen only a slow climb in the number of women occupying the key decision-making roles on UK energy company boards. The sector seems to be stuck trailing the wider business community, where the FTSE 350 has already reached 40% women on boards. And the fact that we still have almost a quarter of energy companies with all-male boards is simply unacceptable in 2023. At this critical time when the energy system is changing, companies need to change too. The industry needs much better diversity so that it has the innovation and leadership for a successful energy transition and is much more representative of the consumers it serves.”

The full table benchmarking the companies can be found here.

Progress is more encouraging, however, at levels below the board. PfW and PwC UK analysed the number of women in leadership and middle management roles in the top 80 companies. The results show:

  • Women occupy 31% of leadership roles, compared with 29% in 2022.  (‘Leadership’ is defined as executive committee and their direct reports in line with the FTSE Women Leaders Review.)
  • Women occupy 32% of middle management roles (new data this year). (‘Middle management’ is defined as two further levels below ‘leadership’).
  • Four companies have already met POWERful Women’s new and ambitious target of 40% women in leadership by 2030. A further 15 have reached between 30% and 39%.
  • Six companies have already met the same 40% target for women in middle management. A further nine have reached between 30% and 39%.

The number of companies reporting on women in leadership and middle management was low, but the size of the workforce they represent is significant. Only around a third of companies responded to requests for this data – suggesting ongoing challenges in diversity data collection ­– but between them they represent by far the majority of the largest employers and around 75% of the total UK energy workforce.

Katie Jackson added: “From the data we’ve been able to collect on women in leadership and middle management, it is clear that the largest energy employers in the sector are making positive headway when it comes to gender diversity in levels below the board. Those that have already met POWERful Women’s 40% target deserve to be congratulated and I hope they will continue to share with other organisations the good policies that have got them there. I also encourage them to maintain their focus and ensure those women are developed and supported so that this valuable talent can be retained.”

Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability, commented: “I passionately believe that we need women in leadership roles to drive towards our goal of securing cheap, clean energy that Britain needs to prosper. As both a woman and Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability, I am committed to ensuring that all people, including women, are at the heart of all that we do.”

Elisabeth Hunt, Energy & Infrastructure Tax Deals Leader at PwC, commented: “This annual research continues to provide valuable insight into the energy sector’s need to diversify at every level in order to nurture and harness a broad talent pool, drive innovation, boost retention and develop skills among the workforce. “The energy transition brings with it a need to grow the energy sector’s workforce and with it, attract diverse and varied skill sets. Female leaders have a key role to play here, particularly in making sure that the sector appeals to future generations of women and girls.  A fundamental shift in tone is needed to attract these future generations to roles in the sector and everyone in the industry has a responsibility alongside educational institutions in setting that tone. “Overall, more progress around the image of the energy sector needs to be made, if young people from diverse backgrounds are to view it as an engaging, attractive and ultimately rewarding career path."

The 2023 statistics also looked at the breakdown between sectors within the energy industry and revealed that the Power & Utilities sector is once again generally performing better on female representation than Oil & Gas. In the 37 companies in the P&U sector, women occupy 30% of board seats and 51% of executive director roles, while in the 42 companies in the O&G sector the figures are 29% and 21% respectively.  62% of P&U companies and 83% of O&G companies have no female executives on the board.

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