Do Energy Companies Need More Gender Balance?
- Apr 28, 2022 3:06 pm GMT
As the environmental, economic, and social impacts of climate change and rising sea levels climb, the energy sector has come under fire for failing to meet the needs of a warming planet effectively. The scrutiny has forced governments and similar agencies to reassess their energy generation and technologies.
Perhaps most apparent is how far the energy sector straggles behind other fields when it comes to female representation. As of 2020, women only accounted for approximately 46% of the global workforce. However, in the energy division, only 22% are women in oil and gas and 32% in renewables.
Alarmingly, this disparity is despite women typically being the most sensitive to climate change – particularly in developing countries, where they’re responsible for collecting water and other resources – and often driving initiatives to address global warming.
Of course, the question remains: Why are women underrepresented in energy and how can companies balance out the gender demographics in the field?
A Slow and Steady Rise for Women in STEM
Gender disparities in the energy sector are evident well before graduates reach the workforce. If labor statistics are any indication, more male college students enroll in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs than female students.
Historically, men have dominated STEM fields, and while the number of women enrolled in college STEM programs has gone from 8% in 1970 to 27% in 2020, it’s been a slow and steady increase.
Several factors may contribute to the wide gender gap in these fields, including a lack of mentors and role models for women, sexism in academic programs, and sexism in STEM professions.
Research shows female students may receive negative stereotypical messages regarding their natural abilities and efforts in pursuing STEM degrees. These indirect messages could increase anxiety and hinder a woman’s confidence, sense of belonging, and commitment to studying a STEM specialization.
Sexism in the workplace is also highly suggestive of gender disparities in STEM. According to Pew Research Center, 50% of female STEM professionals experienced gender discrimination compared to 20% of their male counterparts. Additionally, 20% of women claimed their gender made it more challenging to work and thrive in their careers.
Women in Energy: Potential for Impact
It’ll take a lot of effort to improve gender balance in STEM fields. However, there’s been a recent shift towards female engineers holding leadership roles in the energy sector. Although men continue to maintain the most power in energy, women represent 17.1% of senior utility positions overall, including electrical, natural gas, and multiline utilities.
Women are also more apt to work in the field to install and help homeowners understand the benefits of green HVAC technology in homes or as part of innovative teams developing cleaner energy. Laborious, technical roles are most often associated with men.
However, companies can and should be doing far more to bridge the gap between male and female employees in energy. Currently, the world’s energy supply contributes 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest pollution-emitting sector. By neglecting to fill its talent pool with a larger female demographic, the energy field ultimately misses out on enhanced solutions to the climate crisis and fresh perspectives on renewables and energy resilience.
The first step toward gender parity in the energy field is to combat the stereotypes and gender bias facing women in STEM. Hiring managers could revamp workplace training programs and reword job descriptions to attract a more diverse pool of female applicants.
Companies should also scour professional networks dedicated to female engineers for garnering new talent. Organizing hiring events and implementing internship programs, primarily for female students, offer greater opportunities for female mentorship and post-graduate work.
Other ways energy facilities might improve the workplace for women in energy is by integrating better policies for parental leave and encouraging current female employees to pursue career advancement, development training, and promotions.
Raising awareness about the energy field’s need for a solid female workforce is crucial for knocking down gender inequity. Often, women aren’t privy to their importance or the need for their expertise in the field, leading to fewer women choosing engineering and science majors in college.
Strong Women Lead to Better Energy Solutions
The energy sector is going through a significant transition to stay ahead of the changing climate conditions. The demand for enhanced energy solutions also necessitates a more balanced workplace demographic of male and female engineers, scientists, and technicians. In aiming to adapt to renewables and combat global warming for the health and safety of the planet, it’s in the energy sector’s best interest to shift its focus toward increasing stronger female involvement in the field.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.