Gender equality on UK energy company boards poor but slowly improving

Matthew Farmer 3 June 2020 (Last Updated June 8th, 2020 09:16)

The executive boards of the UK power industry still have some way to go to achieve gender equality, according to data gathered by PricewaterhouseCooper and compiled by POWERful Women.

Gender equality on UK energy company boards poor but slowly improving
Executive boards across the power industry are still far from gender equality, with many boards having no women at all. Credit: Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng.

The executive boards of the UK power industry still have some way to go to achieve gender equality, according to data gathered by PricewaterhouseCoopers and compiled by POWERful Women.

The 81 companies analysed had an average of 21% female board members. Of the surveyed power companies, 31 had no women at all on their boards. The Renewables Infrastructure Group was the only company surveyed which had a majority-female board.

In 2015, a five-year government report by Lord Davies recommended that UK industries should aim to have a minimum of 33% of female board members by 2020. In the survey, 17 of the 81 companies, or 21%, achieved this target.

Renewable generation and sales company Good Energy Group had perfect board and executive board gender balances, with oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and Total UK not far behind in both areas.

Executive boards were significantly worse for equality, with 79% of the listed UK power companies have no women at all on their executive boards.

Equality for women in power is coming, slowly

Chair of POWERful Women Ruth Carnie said this year’s statistics show the most annual progress in the last five years. The average number of female board members has risen from 13% in 2018 when the average for executives was just 6%.

She continued: “The increase in the number of women in executive director positions is particularly noteworthy.

“Nonetheless, there is a long, long way to go before the representation of women at senior levels is sufficient or sustainable. And special attention is needed with all the COVID-19 disruption to ensure that we don’t fall back on old habits and lose the progress that has been made – especially in building a strong pipeline of female talent for senior leaders who will tackle the energy challenges that lie ahead.”

Price Waterhouse Cooper’s energy and utilities lead Steve Jennings said: “The progress being made by energy companies to improve gender balance on their boards is to be welcomed, but the pace of improvement makes it clear that there is a long journey ahead of us if 2030 targets are to be met.”

Scientific and business studies have repeatedly shown greater diversity at all company levels leads to better business results.

British law expects companies with more than 250 employees to publish annual gender pay discrepancy reports. The UK government suspended the legislation earlier this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.