We are all in agreement, a greener future is undoubtedly one of the most pressing challenges across our industry. The problem is, the energy world is neglecting a crucial factor that could contribute to speeding up this collective mission, and that’s building a strong, diverse and inclusive workforce.
Much research has shown that a more diverse leadership team is significantly better for innovation, a feat that has the opportunity to keep our industry progressing towards NetZero. Why? Because having a diverse workforce results in happier and more productive employees, which has a knock-on increase in work morality and retention levels. These, of course, are all crucial qualities of companies looking to manage the ongoing energy transition in the coming years. I know what you’re thinking; if it’s that simple, why aren’t we doing it?
Rubina Singh, Head of Innovation at British Gas put it perfectly, “We don’t have the representation in terms of senior leadership, in terms of visible role models, that we need to help inspire others to enter the industry,” he added “We need all kinds of talent, we need 100% of our population.”
Women’s participation and representation in the energy sector, in particular, is far below those in other comparable industries. The latest figures show that women make up just 22% of the labour force and 32% of the Renewables’ workforce. Only 1 in 10 professionals are non-white, and we haven’t even touched on the lack of cognitive diversity.
What can we do?
Prominent energy figures worldwide took part in a virtual dialogue last month to discuss this topic in detail; the first point of call was Laura McGee, founder and CEO of Diversio. She said: “energy sector is in the middle of the pack compared to some sectors, and could achieve rapid progress by learning from other industries.” Data-driven diagnostics are critical for avoiding missteps and allocating resources to targeted pain points, she added.
Putting data aside and leaning on logic, let’s talk about the front line. On the front line, the energy industry involves a lot of rotational jobs, long hours, fieldwork and travel, the duties of a role that highly favours the male. This is because women, particularly women who have children, find it an impossible balance. ONS figures in the UK show that 3 in 10 working mothers reduce their hours to look after the family, compared to 1 in 20 men. Therefore, flexible working policies are a must to maintain female talent, policies that allow women to continue their roles and thrive without compromising on family commitments.
Opportunity is in abundance in the energy industry, every day there are new innovations, technology and exciting pledges that are pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve by 2050. The problem is, the majority of the opportunities are limited to the white, western individual (a study by Diversio that looked at ethnicity in energy found 73% of the workforce is white, 13% Asian, 8% Latinx and 1% black).
While exporting energy talent is important, a lot more focus must be given to building and upskilling local talent. Lower-income communities of colour, for example, are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution and can offer a unique and personal perspective on how to drive clean energy innovation and uptake.
Tackling unconscious bias.
At AVA energy, we are huge advocates in tackling bias; how we recruit our clients, and how we represent you, the candidate. This includes removing gendered language from job adverts and blinding CVs from no racial or socio-economic indicators. We talk about candidates’ skillsets rather than where they were educated, we encourage our clients to offer flexible hours and remote working opportunities to widen the talent pool. We also produce industry surveys that encourage equalising salaries. We put a huge focus on the individual’s ability to do the job and nothing else.
It’s no doubt as the energy sector recovers from the pandemic and moves toward an innovative and prosperous future, an unwavering commitment to diversity & inclusion is imperative in its success. Talent is the most valuable commodity in the world today, and a diverse workforce will catapult the energy industry’s success.