Despite rising efforts and increased recognition of the benefits of diversity in the workplace, the number of women working in energy, particularly at the senior level, continues to remain considerably low. A recent report by S&P Global highlights that if women entered and remained in the workforce at a similar rate as witnessed in Norway, the U.S. could generate an additional $1.6 trillion towards the national economy. Specialist recruitment agency, Dylan Green explores what barriers have impacted the representation of women in the energy market.
Women in the energy workforce is a recurring theme that continues to challenge many other industries as well. There are countless articles highlighting the benefits of diversity, how it creates higher levels of innovation, improves employee engagement and can drive more revenue; and it is exactly this kind of innovation and diverse thought that the energy market needs to effectively tackle complex issues like grid modernization, smart cities, and climate change. Yet, despite the number of emerging campaigns and rising number of focused reports, women in energy, continue to be relatively disproportionate, particularly at senior levels. To deliver a business where innovation can really thrive means the energy market simply needs more women at all levels of business, or the US risks falling behind. A recent study at Stanford University presents mounting evidence highlighting that greater equality leads to further innovation and increased development of new, disruptive concepts and services.
A prime example of women successfully working in energy, at all levels, is Steer, the innovative car subscription service that exclusively features electric vehicles. Led by a pair of dynamic women Founders, Sonya Harbaugh and Erica Tsypin developed Steer in response to the most common objections towards electric vehicles, i.e. range, cost, and the nature of charging vehicles. Steer now represents one of the only female-led start-up companies within Exelon, as well as the automotive and tech industries. “Our backgrounds in energy and commitment to a premier customer experience make Steer different. We know we think differently than dealerships or other car subscriptions services, and our members see that as a major benefit,” says CEO and co-founder Sonya Harbaugh. The innovative business model has already enabled thousands of people to sign up to their service within the DC metro area and is continuing to expand further.
Unfortunately, despite numerous success stories like in the case of Steer, there continue to be many obstacles preventing women from easily entering the industry and reaching their full potential. “We strive to create a culture of support and teamwork,” COO and co-founder Erica Tsypin add. “Running a start-up doesn’t mean you have to give up your personal life or family.” Due to a longstanding lack of focus on recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce means many energy companies are falling behind in terms of talent generation.
Barriers for women in the U.S. workforce
A significant barrier for women in energy is struggling to maintain the work-life balance, particularly at senior levels. The lack of support and services available means women are not only being held back in the workplace, but it’s also having a significant impact on families, business and the economy. The combination of other factors such as lack of maternity pay, along with high childcare costs, is causing many women to drop out of the workforce before reaching a senior level.
From the workforce perspective, many industries, including energy, are feeling the impact of the mentioned barriers and its impact on women in energy. Many women are deciding to leave the workforce altogether due to not being provided with the support they need. As a result, the level of women participating in the national workforce and in particular, the number working in senior-level roles, has remained relatively stagnant, while other markets have experienced continued improvements. A report published by S&P Global states that if women entered and remained in the workforce at a similar rate as found in Norway, the U.S. could generate an additional $1.6 trillion towards the economy.
To address these developmental barriers, new organizations like Chief are gaining rapid traction. Chief is “a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there.” Chief appeals to women who are rising through leadership in their companies and who are eager for collaboration with other senior women leaders to strengthen their journey. Jane Hoffer, Chief Business Officer of technology startup Veniam was excited when she heard about Chief. “I’ve always looked for networks of women who share and learn from each other’s experiences. Chief’s member list, group events, and intimate roundtable format were extremely appealing to me for my personal and professional development.”
Before even considering the barriers and challenges facing women in the workplace is focusing on providing a developmental path that enables young women to work towards becoming committed and passionate leaders. Providing a supportive pathway that promotes career development for women, rather than inadvertently holding women back should form the first priority.
Many analysts have highlighted that paid leave is an essential part of today’s talent and workforce. Furthermore, in competitive markets, such as the case for energy, the competition for skilled, talented employees means that by not providing these services or incentives, many companies will experience missed opportunities.
Within the U.S., many discussions concerning clean energy and climate change revolve around several core themes; supporting new and innovative ideas and a need to transform how the entire industry operates. Within this, our workforce represents the most important resource to support and continue driving these processes forward. In order for new ideas to develop and be effectively implemented, will require people of all backgrounds to address these issues and work together. As shown in the case of startup company Steer, success and innovation can be delivered directly from women in the workforce. It is now time that Americans are clearly represented in the energy industry at all levels, ensuring strategic decisions encompass the diversity the energy market really needs to continue moving forward.