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The Energy Sector Needs a Stronger Female Presence

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

  • Member since 2017
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  • May 19, 2020

Globally, women made up 15% of senior management roles in the power and utilities industry last year.  Some industry leaders believe a stronger female presence and voice in the energy sector will be imperative to the continuing success of the industry especially after the full weight of the pandemic hits.  Wind farm developer G7 Renewable Energies project manager, Veronique Fyfe, says gender diversity in any sphere means “a larger and more creative talent pool.”  Danske Commodities (DC) CEO Helle Østergaard Kristiansen, the first female CEO in energy trading, acknowledged the low numbers of women in the energy sector, saying, “If we don’t tap into 50 percent of the talent pool, do we get the right [people] and the best competencies? I’m concerned about our competitiveness as a company and as a sector, if we don’t improve the rate [of women’s participation].”

According to a report co-authored by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), women represent only about 21% of the global wind workforce, and the greatest gender gaps exist for science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles, and senior management positions.  Women only make up a third (32%) of the global renewable energy workforce.

Sempra Energy, Ameren Corporation and DTE Energy were the top three awarded this year for diversity and inclusion by DiversityInc.  While Sempra Energy lists their diversity and inclusion awards on their website, they say awards aren’t the goal but having their efforts recognized is one way they know they’re making a difference.  Ameren vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Sharon Harvey Davis said, "For 12 years, we have been recognized as a leader in the utility space for our commitment to diversity and inclusion.  We know that bringing diverse co-workers to Ameren, including their different perspectives and viewpoints in how we do business, will provide more creative and innovative solutions to the complex problems and issues we face each day – allowing us to achieve our mission to Power The Quality of Life for our customers.”  Ameren's co-worker employee resource groups include Women Influencing Success in Energy.  DTE Energy puts out the welcome mat when it comes to diversity.  Energy group, Women of DTE, help female employees achieve their goals, by creating a close-knit community promoting engagement, personal connections, growth and development.   Some utilities found themselves on the defense after a recent article that evaluated companies from an employee's point of view.  For example, according to Glassdoor, 49% of reviewers would recommend working at NextEra to a friend but employees criticized the company for a lack of diversity in the workplace, particularly in regards to women.  Recruiting and visibility play a key role in diversifying your workforce. DC’s CEO Kristiansen made a few changes to improve their talent pool by changing the wording of job ads.  Previously, their ads used 95 percent of words that were considered masculine and featured photos with “young men in blue shirts looking at computer screens.” She also encourages promoting from within, a strategy that should be pleasing to all employees.

Kristiansen admits, “It’s a challenge, but it’s important to have women in the company and then grow it from there. We’re trying to get more female talent in the company, not with forced Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but by making sure we offer a working environment and a culture that welcome diversity and thrive upon it.”    Following the pandemic, an ‘all hands on deck’ approach will be required to reach the best strategies for success. How will your utility utilize diversity to include the voices of people from backgrounds that will benefit and represent your customers?

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 20, 2020

Thrilled to see the focus on this topic, thanks for sharing Nevelyn. I particularly love this note: 

“It’s a challenge, but it’s important to have women in the company and then grow it from there. We’re trying to get more female talent in the company, not with forced Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but by making sure we offer a working environment and a culture that welcome diversity and thrive upon it.”

Shows that it's just about forced D&I, but rather fostering an environment that allows D&I to flourish naturally as well

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