There has been an increase in the number of women in energy leadership positions in the past 10 years, but there's still a long way to go. In fact, it could take more than 70 years, or until the 2090s, to close the gender gap in global energy C-suites, based on the current growth in women’s leadership in the energy sector, according to new research by S&P Global.
In comparison, the World Economic Forum projected that the overall gender pay gap will take 208 years to close.
The good news is that progress has been made. The share of female board members and women in the C-suite in the global energy industry has almost doubled since 2000, reaching 15 percent and 13 percent in the global energy sector, respectively. However, women still occupy less than one-fifth of senior leadership roles, according to the #ChangePays in Energy report.
Maya Weber, lead author of the report and an editor at S&P Global Platts, believes that it remains to be seen whether women are being given enough opportunities to join the C-suite in the global energy sector. In addition, she believes the lack of flexibility around schedules in the energy industry could be a deterrent for women who have to care for children or an elderly parent.
“Historically, energy has been a very male-dominated industry,” added Jacqueline Gulley, a spokesperson for S&P Global. “We conducted this report to better understand what the real differences are here relating to the gender pay gap and to explore how we can close it.”
The findings, which are part of S&P Global’s broader #ChangePays initiative, are based on original research conducted by S&P Global Platts Analytics and S&P Global Market Intelligence, which analyzed 799 companies across 30 countries with the largest sample size in the dataset in the S&P Global BMI Energy (Sector) Index and S&P Global BMI Utilities (Sector) Index. Weber also interviewed 20 female leaders in various positions within the energy sector to learn about their hurdles, setbacks and successes.
“The report made it clear that to get more women interested in the sector, the outreach needs to start early—as young as the elementary school age,” Weber said, noting that the industry tends to compete with career opportunities in the tech sector. At the same time, it’s worth noting that excitement around the energy sector’s transformation, with an emphasis on lowering emissions, is attracting younger, climate-conscious generations. There is a move toward distributed energy resources, such as solar energy, and consumers want more choice and more digital control over their energy use, Weber explained.
“Consumers are going to be the new asset class,” Lisa Frantzis, senior managing director at Advanced Energy Economy and managing director of Navigant Consulting, said in the report. “Everything is moving more toward a much more interactive customer, [and] the customers are not just men.”
The female leaders that Weber interviewed for the report also mentioned that addressing gender represents just the tip of the iceberg for the global energy sector. “Even if you address gender, the job really isn’t done in terms of addressing diversity, including women of color,” Weber said. “We’ve made some progress, but we really need to keep the momentum going.”