As the world works towards a transition to clean and secure renewable energy, the sector has a huge opportunity to create new jobs and reshape existing ones, writes Caroline Williams, Fugro’s Regional Talent and Leadership Development Manager for Europe and Africa.

By 2030, there are set to be 139 million jobs in the energy sector worldwide, according to IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook 2022 report. Of these, 38.2 million will be in renewable energy, and 74.2 million in other energy transition-related sectors.

As both the number of job roles and real-world projects scale up, the industry will need to invest in recruitment, training and reskilling to meet this demand.

At the same time, the energy sector suffers from a sizeable gender gap. Historically male-dominated, especially for technical and leadership jobs, there are several barriers to women’s inclusion in the renewable energy sector, and stereotypical gender roles is one of them. Only 27 % of board seats and 15 % of executive director seats in the energy sector are filled by women, and more than a third of the UK’s top energy companies have no women at all on their boards.

Engineering: not just jobs for the boys

There is still unfortunately a lingering perception that engineering jobs are for men. These cultural and social norms are influenced by the information and advice that women and girls are given, the role models that inspire them, and the kinds of jobs they feel comfortable applying for.

If organisations can find ways to ensure equal access to opportunities, they’ll not only be able to fill the job roles required but improve gender diversity at the same time. This diversity is important, because it is the variety of life experiences and perceptions that can lead to new ideas and means to solve problems. At a time when the energy industry faces a range of pressing challenges from reaching net zero targets, to developing energy security and resilience, it is particularly important to have every voice in the room.

Changing recruitment strategies

Part of making these changes come from the recruitment strategies that employers adopt. They need to be consciously targeting underrepresented communities, instead of the usual candidates. Searching for talent from different backgrounds, whether that’s by rewriting job descriptions, working with specialist recruitment partners, or redesigning the application and interview process to be more accessible, are some of the ways they can do this.

We have to stop unconscious bias

Leaders must look critically at the processes they already have in place and seek to minimise the unconscious biases that may exist in the questions they’re selecting and the criteria by which they’re measuring candidates. It isn’t something that can happen overnight, but in combination, these practices can help widen the pool of candidates.

There’s also a role for training programmes and education to play here. Early career choices can be incredibly influential in the eventual path someone takes as they gain experience and progress, so intervention is needed to make it easier for women and girls to enter the sector at a junior level. Organisations should consider mentorship or apprenticeship programmes, offering a way to pair experienced professionals with underrepresented talent as they develop. These programmes can provide invaluable support and networking opportunities that increase the likelihood that women and girls don’t just enter the sector but stay there.

Additionally, employers must ensure equal opportunities for growth and advancement by establishing transparent promotion processes and as much as they can, promoting diverse representation in decision-making positions.

Listening to the voices of everyone

Alongside their recruiting and training, there’s the question of the work culture an organisation has in place. Employers should actively implement and refine policies that foster a sense of belonging for all employees. This includes actions like encouraging the formation of employee resource groups and affinity networks that can provide a platform for underrepresented groups to connect, share experiences, and drive change.

Making energy an inclusive place to work

As the energy sector transforms for the better, bringing in new talent and reskilling existing personnel, it is also time to shift the dial on gender diversity. The changes that are needed to make the energy transition a reality are impossible without it.