Women in the energy sector: Enabling progress at Cornwall Insight

Today, the campaigning group POWERful Women* (PfW) will launch its 2021 statistics on gender diversity at the top of the UK energy sector (register here).  Like many of you, I will watch with interest to see how the picture has evolved: last year it reported 13% of executive board directors in the UK energy sector are women, up from 6% in 2019.

I am proud to be on the Board of Cornwall Insight, but I didn’t have this as a career goal until relatively recently. We need more women and people from under-represented groups aspiring to get to the top, and make sure there is support, encouragement and role models.

Since 2016, I have been a member of Changing the Chemistry which has been working hard to increase diversity on all types of Boards: evidence shows that increasing board diversity improves the performance of organisations and thereby benefits the wider economy. Initially a Scottish peer support organisation, it has now extended to a London chapter and of course meets virtually.  Its focus is diversity in all its form, not only gender. Neural diversity – the different ways we think – is an important element of this.

But on 19th May, the focus is on women’s representation on Boards, and how to support women during their career so they become ready for the executive suite and Board Room. PfW is one organisation that has been focussing on this since its establishment.  I spoke to Maria Blakely at PfW to discuss what resources are available to Cornwall Insight.

Beyond campaigning and reporting, PfW offers practical support for larger and major organisations in the Energy industry, and offers career support through their POWERFul Connections work to SMEs too.  Maria signposted me to the following ideas and resources, which women in our industry or anyone interested in this important agenda may wish to engage with:

  1. A ‘list of actions’ women (and men) themselves can take to improve their career in energy and help others (including their company) to improve https://powerfulwomen.org.uk/how-can-i-help/
  2. Join one of these very good groups which offer coaching and support: LeanInEnergy and Womens Utilities Network.
  3. Subscribe to PfW’s ‘in conversation’ video series which showcase some great role models.

Like most companies in the energy sector Cornwall Insight will need to continue to adapt and change its culture to create openness for diversity in all its forms. Incorporating and living the value of “openness” as adopted in the company value-set, as well as Board level KPIs focussing on making substantive progress on diversity issues are just two examples of how this is being given life. But of course, there is more that can be done directly, through engaging employees and our stakeholders across the sector, and as sign-posters to resources that already promote this agenda.

Whatever the 2021 POWERful Women statistics reveal, I think we can be sure that there is still much more to be done. Through my role at the Board table I am looking forward to helping Cornwall Insight make the right progress and its own strong contribution on such an important issue.  

*Chaired by Ruth Cairnie, and run by the Energy Institute as project partner, POWERful Women (PfW) seeks to advance the professional growth and leadership development of women across the UK’s energy sector.

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