Tackling the energy industry gender gap

On International Women's Day our HR Director John Stewart highlights SSE’s approach to attracting, promoting and retaining women in the energy sector. 

The energy industry is facing two significant employment challenges; a skills shortage and a stark lack of diversity. If we want to be in a position to compete in the future we need to take action now.  

Around half of the industry’s workforce is due to leave or retire by 2023. Whilst this is a big challenge to deal with, it also gives us the opportunity to build new pipelines of talent. 

Just 15% of industry jobs are held by women and only 4% are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. Businesses need to be more reflective of the society they serve but currently not enough women in the UK are choosing careers in engineering or in technical operational roles. The reasons for this are multifaceted and societal as well as business or sector specific but we know we have a big role to play to attract women into what has been a historically male–dominated industry. 

On International Women’s Day I thought it was timely to outline how some of the ways we’re tackling the big issues we face in encouraging more women to consider a career in the energy industry – and to ensure we help more women develop their careers too.  

Encouraging women in - we know we rely too much on traditional recruitment routes, which tend to deliver similar people from similar backgrounds. We’re looking at our recruitment process and training to help our hiring managers think differently – especially at managerial and senior appointment level. We’re also taking a long-term view. To attract young people to the industry in the future, we are building a more coordinated approach to the work we do with schools to inspire and promote careers in the energy sector whether you’re male or female.

Support women to stay on – companies need to look at their culture, their policies and processes to make sure they don’t just attract more women into the company but they keep them there too. For example we know that flexible working is a key contributor to attract, retain and support progression of women in the workplace so we’re looking at how we could be better. Also, how you better support women returning to work after maternity leave or a career break can have a huge impact on how they continue to develop. SSE is taking a close look at how it can make returning to work easier, smoother and support women to continue their careers.

Support women to progress – while 30% of SSE employees are women we want to see this increase and for them to take on more senior roles. Currently 11% of our female employees are in roles earning over £40,000 and we want to see this increase to at least 25% by 2025. The Government also announced measures last month requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap. We are currently working through these and will publish our report in the near future. 

Diversity takes many forms and whilst tackling the low numbers of women in the industry we also need to be more reflective of modern Britain. These are not challenges that will be overcome overnight but what is clear is that businesses and society are taking a closer look at the issues behind some of the headline statistics and taking action.

For SSE the measure of success in all this will not only be better female representation but also building a reputation as a responsible company that understands, respects and values the diverse society it serves.  

About the author

John Stewart Director of Human Resources

John Stewart is SSE's Director of Human Resources and is responsible for the development and delivery of Human Resources and Training Policy across SSE. John has worked for SSE since 2009 and has over 20 years of experience in the Utilities sector having worked across the UK and in the USA for companies such as Southern Water, ScottishPower and PacifiCorp.

Read more articles by John Stewart