Energy companies, including supermajor BP, have made a commitment for a better gender balance at the top management level after joining up to the POWERful Women’s Energy Leaders’ Coalition.

BP, Wood, Subsea 7 as well as UK renewable energy generator Drax, French utility Engie and the UK arm of German utility E.ON joined a list of industry giants that have pledged to improve gender diversity and inclusion within their own organisations and across the UK energy sector.

The new members, joining the existing eight members of the coalition, are Peter Mather, senior vice president of Europe and Head of Country UK at BP, Will Gardiner, the chief executive of Drax, Engie chief executive Nicola Lovett, E.ON UK boss Michael Lewis, as well as John Evans, the chief executive of Subsea 7 and Robin Watson, the chief executive of Wood.

The leaders of the six energy companies — between them representing over 66,000 employees in the UK — signed up to the coalition in response to the “poor level of female representation at senior levels in the industry, recognising that better balance is good for business”, a joint statement said.

The POWERful Women’s Energy Leaders’ Coalition was former in May 2018 as part of a campaign to advance the careers of women in energy.

Some of its existing members include Sinead Lynch, chair of Shell UK, Alistair Philips-Davies, the chief executive of SSE and Scottish Power chief executive, Keith Anderson.

Progress required

Recent analysis by auditing giant PwC of the boards of the top 80 UK energy companies showed that representation at senior levels remains low, although some progress has been made.

According to PwC, currently 21% of board seats are occupied by women — up from 16% in 2019 and 13% in 2018.

In addition, 13% of executive board seats are now occupied by women — more than double last year’s 6%.

However, the consultancy said, more than a third (38%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women on their boards at all, while more than two-thirds (79%) have no women occupying executive board seats.

Better equipped to face challenges

Louise Kingham OBE FEI, board member of POWERful Women and chief executive of the Energy Institute said: “We’re delighted to welcome six new members to the Energy Leaders’ Coalition. Each is demonstrating true leadership on gender diversity and inclusion.

“They recognise that their business will be better equipped for the energy and economic challenges that lie ahead if it can tap into the very best talent available, and they are also sending a powerful message to other major employers in the industry,” Kingham said.

“Wood is influencing positive change in gender diversity as part of our commitment to building a sustainable future for generations to come. Retaining and nurturing brilliant talent and generating the boldest solutions, takes creating a community that welcomes, celebrates and values difference in background, viewpoint and experience,” Wood chief executive, Robin Watson said.

Subsea 7 counterpart John Evans added: “At Subsea 7, we’re committed in offering you a place for innovation, an environment where you can thrive, and a career you can be proud of. We work hard to make our workplace fair, respectful, diverse, and inclusive for everyone, and take pride in the truly global workforce we have.

“No doubt we still have work to do to improve female representation in our company, that’s why our membership of the coalition is a declaration of our commitment ,” Evans added.

Some progress has been made in attracting and retaining female talent to the oil and gas industry.

Only three years ago, a major study on gender balance within the industry from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that women account for only 22% of the industry’s workforce, one of the lowest among major industries, and the percentage drops significantly at higher levels.

In the two years since the coalition began, an annual report is put together to show the work done to date, good practice, and where progress is still required.

POWERful Women’s next report into the industry’s gender balance is due out October.