The global energy sector is not able to achieve its targets for tackling of climate change because of the shortage of women employed in energy companies, according to the warnings of a leading industry watcher.
The notion that the energy industry is not very open to new ideas especially the ones that could lead to a system with lower carbon emission emanates from the industry’s poor gender diversity, said Catherine Mitchell, a professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter.
“I absolutely do think that the fact that the industry is so dominated by men and particularly older white men it is slowing down the energy transition,” said Mitchell. She is an advisor to the U.K> government, regulators and business and draws from her experience in being active in the energy sector for more than 30 years now
The issue lack of presence of women leaders in the energy sector would attempted to be addressed next month at an energy conference where there would be women-only panels
“I thought we really need to have something where all these women who are great get to speak,” said Mitchell, who has helped organize the event.
While admitting that women are not necessarily more progressive on energy issues compared to men she noted that males tend to dominate the so called “conventional” sector of the industry such as energy generation through fossil fuel and energy networks, compared to the greener and more innovative firms that produce energy.
“The fact we are not moving is not good for Britain, is not good for the environment,” she said relating to the trend of slowing the transition into decentralized and renewable energy.
The argument was held credible by Juliet Davenport, the chief executive of the energy supplier Good Energy. “The energy sector is lagging sorely behind other industries in terms of diversity, meanwhile sustainable [green] businesses are very balanced. So the idea that lack of diversity is contributing to the issue of transition to renewables is very plausible,” she said.
While the industry events where there are men-only events or have only one women are quite common, there are no women on the boards of almost two-thirds of the top 89 energy companies in the UK.
After a woman was deputed at an annual event by a company, the woman had been disinvited from a panel of chief executives, said one female energy expert.
“It became a panel of CEOs, with a woman, and so they did not ‘need’ another woman,” she said.
There are instances of sexual harassment also.
Felicity Jones was assumed to be a catering staff and asked to get a coffee refill by a fellow speaker at a speaker’s room at a conference. Jones is a partner at the renewables and energy storage consultancy Everoze.
“That kind of thing happens, but I laugh it off. Because it works both ways: often my gender gives me an advantage. I do a lot of business development and pretty much all of my counterparts at competitors are men. That means that I stand out,” she said.
The likes of the big six lobby group Energy UK is attempting to reduce this gender gap in the energy industry. The organization has stopped men-only panels during its events. “The energy sector is undergoing a huge period of transition, which brings with it a huge opportunity to increase gender balance,” said the group’s external affairs director, Abbie Sampson.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)