Insights from POWERful Women: Why are women leaving the energy sector?
Published: 28 November 2023
Future of Utilities sat down with Katie Jackson, Chair at POWERful Women, to delve into the findings of their latest Insight Piece, ‘Women we are losing: the triggers making women leave their jobs in energy – and lessons for companies on retaining talent‘.
Aimed at leaders, managers and change-makers in the UK energy sector, hear what Katie has to say on why women are leaving an industry they feel passionate about and how organisations can make crucial changes to retain vital female talent in the energy sector.
1. POWERful Women have recently published their Insight Piece ‘Women we are losing: the triggers making women leave their jobs in energy – and lessons for companies on retaining talent‘. What was the motivation behind this and how was the research conducted?
We wanted to find out what might be making some women choose to quit jobs in an industry that they feel passionately about. We knew from conversations within our network that although companies carry out exit interviews, there was an uncertainty around how candid people were being about why they were leaving. So POWERful Women decided to interview women who had recently resigned from a role in the UK energy sector to gain greater insight on the factors behind such a momentous and difficult decision and provide positive recommendations.
This piece is a follow-up to our 2022 report ‘Cultivating Female Talent in Energy‘, with Bain & Company, which looked in detail at the barriers women in middle management face in terms of career development and profession. That revealed that women are looking for support to thrive within the workplace – equal opportunities for career development, effective flexible working policies, visible female role models and a supportive and inclusive culture.
With both that research and this deeper dive into women leaving, we wanted to shine a light on current issues in the workplace and potential solutions. We used the stories that were shared voluntarily with us by women in a variety of industry roles and seniority to provide a set of practical recommendations for organisations, leaders and managers on how they can retain the female talent they need for the energy transition.
2. What specific challenges did you identify regarding women leaving their jobs in the energy sector, and how do these challenges contribute to gender disparities within the industry?
Firstly, the most encouraging finding from women we interviewed was that although they have all left energy companies, they are still passionate about the industry as a place where they can make a difference and all have remained in the sector to some capacity.
Secondly, the leaving trigger points cited by the women we interviewed, were pretty similar across the board and also aligned with other research on this topic:
- Feeling undervalued – despite working hard, women were not being given opportunities to progress or contribute in a way that aligned with their values. They experience limited options and/or job satisfaction, leading to a lowered sense of purpose and impact.
- An unmanageable work-life balance – not enough flexibility both in terms of location and working patterns.
- An unsupportive (sometimes ‘toxic’) working environment – macho culture, age bias, bullying and no genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion from leadership.
The energy industry is fully aware of the need for a diverse workforce to meet the challenges of Net Zero and build trust with consumers. But if the sector is losing valuable talent due to these issues, then we face a real risk of not meeting our energy transition goals.
3. What key lessons can companies learn from the insights shared in the piece, and what actionable changes can organisations implement to better retain female talent in the energy sector?
The women’s stories are powerful, revealing real workplace experiences, and what comes through loud and clear is that culture makes a difference and inclusivity is key. Based on their feedback on what makes a good employer, the insight piece lists several recommendations on how companies can retain talent. Some of the key points are:
- Women want to feel empowered to make a difference – ensure they feel like they are making a difference in their daily role, that it aligns with the organisation’s values and strategy and that there are opportunities to innovate and upskill.
- Women want to experience the right supportive and inclusive culture – make flexible working standard and integrated as part of the company culture.
- Women want to see leadership walk the talk on diversity – enact company DEI commitments on the ground, ensuring policies are working for women.
4. The women interviewed expressed a desire for leadership to actively support diversity. How can energy businesses ensure that leadership not only makes commitments to diversity but also translates those commitments into actionable and impactful initiatives for the future?
A truly inclusive company starts from the top down with positive role modelling around the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and leaders ensuring DEI is embedded within their company’s mission statement and throughout the business strategy.
For companies to be reflective of the communities they serve, they need to ensure they appoint and retain diverse talent throughout their pipelines, so all employees feel they have an opportunity to progress into management and leadership positions.
Finally, leaders also need to ensure they are supporting individuals to thrive through development programmes, sponsoring and mentoring etc., that is tailored for the individual rather than for the majority.
To learn more, you can access POWERful Women’s full Insight Piece here.