Article by Grace Rothery, Head of UK Retail, Gazprom Energy

Energy, Energy sector, STEMGazprom Energy is the leading business gas supplier in Great Britain; we supply more gas to non-domestic customers than any other supplier in the market – a position we’ve held since 2017.

One of the most significant challenges that the wider energy sector is facing today is the growing skills gap in STEM areas – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  This is based on an increasing body of evidence showing a long-term decline of scientists and engineers to support industry and academia. In order for the energy industry to progress and meet the changing demands of consumers and wider societal issues such as the green agenda, continuous technological innovation is needed and will only be achieved if there is a steady influx of highly skilled and committed scientists, mathematicians and engineers moving through our education system.

The energy industry’s lack of gender diversity has surely played an instrumental part in this blockage of skilled workers. Currently, just 5% of executive board seats in UK-based energy companies are filled by women, according to research conducted by PWC, while 61% of UK-based energy companies have no women on their board at all. As a woman working in the energy industry, I see first-hand the lack of female peers and role models within the sector. This becomes increasingly apparent when visiting industry events such as trade shows and seminars. We are clearly lagging behind other sectors, so we need to see leading energy companies and industry experts acting now to push female professionals into the spotlight to help ensure that  the energy industry does not remain a man’s world.

Greater gender equality can start with children and education. Schools, supported by relevant industries including energy, need to actively encourage girls to study STEM subjects and consider STEM career paths, by offering guidance and information on how and why students should take up interest in the sector. Female speakers need to be placed in the classroom to share their experiences on how they have benefitted from working within the sector. As a school governor and by supporting the charity State Talking Manchester, I have seen first-hand how we can enlighten young girls on the careers that exist in the energy sector. STEM programmes should also be established through schools, with the support of energy companies, to ensure the relevant education is reaching a more diverse range of students.

Beyond education, companies should be looking at themselves to understand how they can appeal to and maintain employment of female professionals. With so many engineers and data experts currently choosing different sectors, energy companies should be looking to make sure that their offerings can compete with other sectors, such fintech. This is not necessarily just about financial compensation; several other factors can play a part, such as supporting flexible working arrangements which we know can bring huge benefits to both employers and employees.

In recent years, we have seen some positive steps to encourage women to work in the energy industry, for example companies have launched STEM ambassador programmes and implemented diversity targets, but more still needs to be done.

One thing is clear, this is not an issue of skills in women, it’s an issue of skills within the industry. Highly skilled and talented women are available, but the industry needs to be playing its part in attracting and retaining them. CEOs should lead by example and ensure that they are really supporting diversity at all levels of their organisations, including in their executive teams, and considering diversity targets at a strategic level.  HR professionals should be demanding diverse applicant shortlists and producing reports on gender diversity. Senior management needs to be looking at their talent pipelines, spotting and supporting talented female workers and encouraging them to put themselves forward for roles that will benefit their career progression.

Not only is there an obvious ethical case for encouraging a more diverse workforce, we simply cannot afford to ignore the blatant business case that there is for it as well. Imagine having an industry that is calling out for more skilled workers but that drains 50% of its talent pool, due to women not feeling included and young girls believing that the industry is predominantly for men. Diversity in staff is crucial when it comes to solving the problems that the industry is facing today and closing the loop on our skills gap. We need innovative approaches to problem solving and a broad understanding of data and technology, something that we can only fully gain if we are open to everyone.

Grace RotheryAbout the author

Grace Rothery has been working for Gazprom Energy since 2011 when she joined as a legal counsel. Previous to her work at Gazprom Energy, Grace worked for the law firm Addleshaw Goddard, where she completed her legal training contract and qualified as a solicitor, specialising in commercial law. After four years as Head of Legal & Regulation at Gazprom Energy, Grace took on a new role as Head of UK Retail in January 2018 which sees her leading 120 people across sales, marketing and operations.