Writing for the Guardian, Adam Vaughn, reports, “Gender imbalance at energy firms and industry events is slowing transition to greener power.”
Catherine Mitchell, a professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, said poor gender diversity meant the industry was less open to new ideas, in particular the move to a lower-carbon energy system.
“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, who has worked on energy issues for more than 30 years and advises the government, regulators and businesses.
An energy conference featuring women-only panels is being held next month to address the lack of visibility of female leaders in the sector.
“I thought we really need to have something where all these women who are great get to speak,” said Mitchell, who has helped organise the event.
On Saturday at the Green Allies Conference held at Swarthmore College, I chatted with one of the organizers about how the majority of the presenters (like me) were men, but the majority of the participants were women. We talked about how the conference next year can include a majority of women presenters. How would this change anything? I am not sure, but for one I imagine it’s meaningful to be represented by the speakers.
As a gay guy concerned about the climate, I feel like a spot of purple in a sea of green when I am an environmental events. Sure there are other LGBTQ people there, but usually I am the only speaker who is presenting from that perspective. And it can be a unique perspective. Similarly by increasing the diversity of speakers to include more people of color, first nations people, and people with disabilities, the conversation deepens, becomes more complex, and can very well lead to more justice-minded solutions.
Vaughn’s article raises an important question, Does diversity in the energy sector lead to fresh new approaches and an openness to more bold action?
Juliet Davenport, the chief executive of the energy supplier Good Energy, said the argument was credible. “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.
Nearly two-thirds of the leading 89 energy companies in the UK have no women on their boards and industry events with men-only panels, or just one woman, are common.
One female energy expert said she had been disinvited from a panel of chief executives at an annual event after a company deputised a female executive.
“It became a panel of CEOs, with a woman, and so they did not ‘need’ another woman,” she said.