UK energy industry sees rise of women in management


38% of the UK’s top energy companies still have no women on their management boards, the latest statistics show.

The 2020 annual board statistics by business consulting firm PwC and POWERful Women, an organisation that promotes female leadership in the energy sector and that set an industry target for 30 per cent women-occupied board roles by 2030.

The latest statistics show a marked increase towards that goal: last year’s dataset counted just 16 per cent board seats occupied by women, up from 13 per cent in 2018.

Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women, commented on the findings: “This year we have seen the most progress since we started compiling board statistics five years ago.

“The increase in the number of women in executive director positions is particularly noteworthy.

“Nonetheless, there is a long, long way to go before the representation of women at senior levels is sufficient or sustainable.

“And special attention is needed with all the COVID-19 disruption to ensure that we don’t fall back on old habits and lose the progress that has been made – especially in building a strong pipeline of female talent for senior leaders who will tackle the energy challenges that lie ahead.

“At times of uncertainty and disruption, the benefits of diversity and inclusion are more critical than ever.”

This year’s analysis looked at the composition of the boards of the top 80 companies in the UK energy sector, focusing on the most significant employers.

The results show:

  • 21% of board seats in the sector are occupied by women – a noticeable increase from 16% in 2019 and 13% in 2018;
  • 13% of executive board seats are occupied by women – more than double last year’s 6%;
  • 11 companies (15% of those surveyed) have now reached the POWERful Women target for 2030 of having at least 30% of their executive board seats occupied by women
  • Since the last review in 2019 there are 25 more female board members and the number of female executive directors has increased by two thirds.


  • More than a third (38%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women on their boards at all – an improvement on last year’s 42% but this ‘remains unacceptable.’
  • More than two-thirds (79%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women occupying executive board seats. This compares with 89% last year.

Steve Jennings, Energy and Utilities Lead, PwC, added: “The progress being made by energy companies to improve gender balance on their boards is to be welcomed, but the pace of improvement makes it clear that there is a long journey ahead of us if 2030 targets are to be met.

“We are on the right path, but companies will not want to delay adopting strategies and plans which enable talented women in the sector to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

“As the sector moves through the energy transition, and adapts plans for a world disrupted by COVID-19, Boards will want to act on the advice of POWERful Women, who have been tirelessly campaigning for improvements to the balance of diversity.”

POWERful Women’s target for the UK energy sector is for 30% of executive board seats and 40% of middle management roles to be occupied by women by 2030.

Evidence continues to show that greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes.

The latest report from management consulting company McKinsey finds ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.’