The energy sector has seen increased diversity and inclusion in recent years. Yet, more action in hiring and retention of diverse talent is needed to allow all employees regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity to thrive in an industry where women and ethnic minorities have been historically under-represented.
Governments, non-profit organisations, industry associations, and energy companies are increasingly adopting diversity and inclusion strategies to allow everyone willing to work in the energy industry to have equal opportunities to flourish as employees or senior executives at oil, gas, and renewable energy firms.
Advancing gender equality and diversity in the energy sector is one of the proposals of the UK Presidency of the G7 group of most developed nations.
“Successfully transitioning to a net zero future will depend on our ability to harness all possible talent in service of the breakthrough ideas and solutions that will transform our societies,” the UK government says.
“There is more work to be done if we are to ensure the net zero transformation results in growth that is inclusive, and where benefits are shared. We have the responsibility to act together to support women and other groups to succeed and thrive in industries where they have been under-represented in the past,” it noted.
The UK Presidency proposes commitments to make gender, equity, and diversity central to the global energy sector’s recovery efforts, as well as to invest in the growth and development of diverse talent to ultimately advance them into leadership roles.
G7 plus other industrialised nations and more than 135 energy companies have joined the “Equal by 30” public commitment by public and private sector organisations to work towards equal pay, equal leadership, and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030.
According to a recent survey for EqualBy30 carried out by technology company Diversio, women account for 32% of the global energy sector workforce, while racial and ethnic minorities account for 22%. Black and Latinx individuals are under-represented compared to population, said Diversio, which used AI algorithms to identify employee gender and ethnicity in the energy sector as part of its mission to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) globally.
Another finding from the survey highlighted the fact that while women make up 39% of roles at the entry level, they represent just 26% of all executives and C-Suite leaders. For racial and ethnic minorities, the C-Suite leaders’ percentage is even lower, 20%.
Focusing on inclusion is important for companies to advance D&I in the energy sector. The top inclusion metrics are inclusive culture, fair management, career development, workplace flexibility, and workplace safety ensuring all employees are not experiencing sexual, psychological, or physical harassment, Diversio’s research showed.
Although the UK oil and gas industry has a rich and diverse heritage, as with comparable industries, the sector has historically struggled to proportionately reflect the diversity of the workforce as a whole, the OGUK Diversity & Inclusion Survey Report from April 2021 found.
According to the survey, industry accepts that it needs to do more to attract those who reflect the richness of talent in society, to empower 100% of the capacity within collective businesses, and to unlock the potential that everyone has to offer.
A total of 57% of survey respondents rated the D&I culture in their organisation as strong or very strong, compared to 14% who regarded the D&I culture in their organisation as weak or feel that there is no D&I culture at all, according to the survey of 1,600 people from over 100 different organisations across 23 job families who completed the D&I survey. Most of the respondents were male (55%), white ethnic background (84%) and based in Scotland (80%). 11% of the survey respondents were from an ethnic minority background, and 10% of respondents identified themselves as LGTBQ+ or preferred not to say.
Smaller or medium sized supply chain companies are less likely than operators and larger supply chain companies with more than 1,000 employees to have a strong D&I culture, according to OGUK’s survey.
Flexible working was identified by respondents as a top activity to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and the number of employees across the industry working flexibly at the moment is very high, due to the COVID lockdowns and restrictions.
Currently it is estimated that around 25% of the UKCS workforce is female. On the assumption that around 140,000 people are directly and indirectly employed in the sector, it means that just over 35,000 women are currently employed in the industry, OGUK said in the report.
“At the current rate of progress and assuming balanced gender recruitment going forward, it will be well in to the 2050s before the industry can expect gender parity in the basin, more than ninety years after the first production of hydrocarbons. To accelerate change, more direct action and intervention will be required,” the report reads.
“To stimulate new ideas and to approach problems from different viewpoints, the industry will need to continue to retain and attract people with different life experiences, work experiences, personalities, behaviours and educational backgrounds. Diversity can be cultivated in different ways, but should include fostering a culture of openness, embracing diverse opinions and welcoming input beyond the consensus,” the authors of the report wrote.
For women in board roles at the largest UK energy employers, only 18 out of 80 companies have female executive directors, POWERful Women and PwC said in their 2021 statistics in May. Women hold just 24% of all board seats and 14% of executive director positions at those 80 companies, the report said.
“That doesn’t bode well for success in the urgent race to Net Zero. We need to deliver diversity much faster if our sector and our economy are going to be fit for the future,” said Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women.
“The figures on women in the executive pipeline reveal how some companies, including our Energy Leaders’ Coalition, are showing commitment to developing more women up through the ranks and into leadership positions, as a way to prepare for the energy transition and the new world they are operating in,” Cairnie commented on positive action to advance diversity and inclusion.
“We need others to follow their lead, with the encouragement of the energy regulators, and for best practice to be implemented across the sector,” Cairnie added.
Despite the negative effects of the pandemic on women in total workforce in the United States, women have made progress in representation in the US energy technology and services sector since 2018, the latest study by the Energy Workforce & Technology Council and its research partner Accenture showed. The share of women in US oil and gas workforce rose to 19% in 2021 from 16% in 2018.
Women are more equally distributed between business support and technical roles but continue to face challenges in promotion and leadership roles, the study found. In addition, ethnic minority representation within the sector lags the overall US workforce and faces similar challenges in representation when it comes to management and top leader roles.
According to the Council, D&I starts with finding and tapping into diverse talent pools for candidates, while flexibility and support enable finding more diverse talent for the sector.
Attracting diverse, innovative talent, focusing on retention, and expanding advancement opportunities could boost D&I and the resilience of the energy sector workforce, the Council noted.
“As women and minorities left at larger rates than the overall U.S. workforce, this brings greater pressure on oil and gas companies pursuing inclusion and diversity goals, and that is a challenge. Diversity will remain key to creating the new ideas that companies need to deliver a safe, affordable and sustainable low-carbon future,” said Council CEO Leslie Beyer.
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