The Push for Equality in Energy

The energy industry is attracting more female workers, a new report shows. But getting more women to leadership positions remains slow and unsteady.

As sectors go, the push for innovation in energy is everywhere, from the search for more renewable sources to clean tech. But a new study suggests that innovation is still lagging behind in one key area: gender parity at the top. 

According to a new report from S&P Global, progress towards gender diversity in energy sector leadership is being made, albeit slowly. The report found that growth in the number of women on energy company boards, in the C-suite, and in senior management roles accelerated over the last decade. Women now represent 15% of board members and 13% of C-suite executives in the global energy sector, according to the report.

To put that growth in perspective, however, at the current rate the report says that energy boards wouldn’t achieve gender parity until 2058. Moreover, it would take more than 70 years for energy companies to reach gender equality in the C-suite. 

Shelly Fust, a senior client partner who leads Korn Ferry’s clean tech, renewable energy and sustainability efforts within its global energy practice, says there is a significant commitment from companies in the sector to get to 30% gender diversity at the board level. But, she says, finding qualified diverse candidates remains a challenge because companies are still looking for CEO-level directors. Until gender diversity increases in senior management roles feeding the C-suite, “locating directors will remain a challenge because those who do have these credentials are in high demand,” says Fust. 

Geographic and cultural factors also contribute to the slow pace of change. To be sure, according to the report, the US outpaces the global average by a slight 2% when it comes to female representation at the board and C-suite level of energy companies. Several Asian countries are among the markets with the highest percentages of women holding board, C-suite, or senior manager positions, including Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. 

Raffaello Raimondi, sector leader for energy with Korn Ferry in London, says innovation in the sector gives organizations arguably the best opportunity they have ever had to achieve more gender parity in leadership. He says the focus on renewable energy, clean tech, and other innovations will likely lead to an increase in job opportunities in the sector. At the same time, these new jobs, which combine technology, engineering, customer service, and other hard skills with a purpose-driven mission, are attracting new talent to the industry, including more women. 

“As the industry transitions, organizations will need to attract talent from other sectors,” says Raimondi, pointing to the consumer-facing nature of retail as one example of the new skills energy leaders now need. “That presents an opportunity for energy companies to create more gender diversity in leadership.”