POWERful Women Board Statistics 2021 Launch

POWERful Women Board Statistics 2021 Launch


Under-representation of women at the top of UK energy sector risks industry being ill-equipped for Net Zero


  • 2021 data released by POWERful Women & PwC UK for top 80 largest energy employers
  • Only 18 out of 80 companies have female executive directors
  • Women hold just 24% of all board seats and 14% of executive director positions


POWERful Women and PwC have today published the latest ‘state of the nation’ on gender balance at the top of the UK energy industry.  The 2021 annual board statistics show that the industry is lacking in gender diversity in its senior ranks, with year-on-year figures on female representation remaining alarmingly low.  This lack of diversity and talent lowers companies’ ability to innovate and meet the urgent challenges of the energy transition.

The latest data shows that the energy sector remains significantly below the 33% by 2020 target for women on FTSE boards and has a long way to go before meeting POWERful Women’s target of 30% for women in executive director roles by 2030.

The prevalence of all-male boards and the extremely small number of companies with any female executive directors remains disappointing.


Ruth Cairnie, Chair of POWERful Women, said:

Our energy industry is sitting centre stage of the green recovery. It has to transform itself completely and support the transition for all other sectors. Yet, woefully, we still lack the diversity we need in the top ranks.  This year’s figures show that we are ignoring a vast pool of female talent – only 18 out of 80 companies have any female executive directors, for example. That doesn’t bode well for success in the urgent race to Net Zero. We need to deliver diversity much faster if our sector and our economy are going to be fit for the future.”  


Energy Minister and the UK’s International Champion on Adaption and Resilience for COP26, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“I am passionate about championing diversity and increasing the representation of women in the energy sector. Not only will talented female minds help the industry transition to a green economy but they will inject innovation and creativity ensuring our energy sector is fit for the future.


“2021 is a pivotal year for the energy sector to support our commitments to tackle climate change and build back greener from the pandemic. As the industry transitions, diversity and inclusion must be high up on the agenda.”


This year’s analysis by PwC UK for POWERful Women looks at the composition of the boards of the top 80 most significant UK energy employers, estimated to comprise more than 150,000 jobs in the industry. 

The results show:

  • 24% of all board seats across the sector are occupied by women
  • 14% of executive director seats are occupied by women
  • 28% of companies (22) still have no women on their board
  • More than two-thirds of companies (62) have no women in executive director roles – the same as last year.
  • Only 18 out of the top 80 UK energy companies have any female exec directors.



When it comes to meeting industry targets, 25 of the 80 companies (31%) have met the 2020 target of 33% for women on boards set by the Davies/Hampton-Alexander Review. This is good news but the energy sector remains behind the UK FTSE as a whole, which met the target last year.

It is positive to see that 15 companies already meet POWERful Women’s 2030 target for 30% women in executive director roles, although with fewer than 10 years to go it is clear that many more companies need to make progress in this respect and appoint women to these roles.


Elisabeth Hunt, PwC energy partner, commented:

“Our industry continues to completely reinvent itself in the face of climate change and the 2050 Net Zero target. This transformation, at both an industry and individual company level, can only happen successfully if the entire pool of talent is harnessed to meet its full potential. That’s why monitoring the progress of female representation is critical.


“It’s perhaps understandable why progress towards diversity targets has stalled in the last 12 months as it’s been one of the most stressful times this industry has even seen. This should not preclude, however, the need for boards to react now, looking at their composition and whether they are best positioned to guide their companies into a post pandemic and decarbonised future that will look very different to the past.”


Looking at positive action to advance diversity and inclusion, Ruth Cairnie observed:

“The figures on women in the executive pipeline reveal how some companies, including our Energy Leaders’ Coalition, are showing commitment to developing more women up through the ranks and into leadership positions, as a way to prepare for the energy transition and the new world they are operating in. We need others to follow their lead, with the encouragement of the energy regulators, and for best practice to be implemented across the sector.”

Evidence shows that greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes.  It has also been estimated that 400,000 people will need to be recruited into the workforce over the next 30 years to achieve the Government’s Net Zero target, and that the UK energy sector needs to double in size.

In response to the lack of women at the top of the UK energy sector, POWERful Women launched the Energy Leaders’ Coalition (ELC) in 2018, a group of 15 CEOs committed to increasing gender diversity and inclusion within their organisations and across the industry.  They are playing a leading role in POWERful Women’s drive to improve gender balance.  At our Annual Conference later this year on 6th and 7th October, the ELC and others will look at practical action to step up progress in response to the statistics.







Anna Stanford, Communications Adviser, POWERful Women

Tel:  +44 7961 234634.  Email:  anna@powerfulwomen.org.uk





  1. Compilation of the 2021 board statistics:

Each year POWERful Women measures the performance of the top 80 UK energy companies with regard to the number of women at board and executive board member level.  This year for the first time we have also looked at the number of women in companies’ executive pipeline (combined executive committee and direct reports).


The top 80 companies are defined by the most significant employers in the UK energy industry. We have rebalanced the data we collect to focus the analysis on the companies driving the energy transition here in the UK, defined by those that are directly employing the majority of those working in the sector in 2021.  Some companies have consequently dropped off the list this year and others joined.  However, this year’s approach retains enough of the companies analysed from previous years to allow meaningful year on year comparisons.


The full set of PfW statistics by company for 2021 are available to view at https://powerfulwomen.org.uk/board-statistics-by-company-2021/


  1. Hampton-Alexander Review: FTSE Women Leaders 2020 https://ftsewomenleaders.com/


  1. McKinsey : ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’, May 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters


  1. National Grid: https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/journey-to-net-zero/net-zero-energy-workforce


  1. See PwC’s Rebuilding UK Economy Report with Energy UK: https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/publication.html?task=file.download&id=7561


  1. Members of the Energy Leaders’ Coalition comprise the heads of the following 15 companies: bp, Cavendish Nuclear, Drax, EDF, Engie UK & Ireland, E.ON UK, Good Energy, National Grid, Ørsted UK, RWE, ScottishPower, Shell UK, SSE, Subsea 7 and Wood. https://powerfulwomen.org.uk/energy-leaders-coalition/


About POWERful Women

POWERful Women was established in 2014 by Baroness Verma and former MP Laura Sandys. It is a professional initiative that seeks to promote the professional growth and leadership development of women across the energy sector.  Our goals are to see 30% of executive director roles and 40% of middle management roles filled by women by 2030.  We do this in three ways:  campaigning and reporting (for example annual board statistics, the Energy Leaders’ Coalition, pledges), supporting women in their careers (for example through our mentoring programme, POWERful Connections) and providing practical support to companies committed to increasing their gender diversity (eg through our I&D forum).  More information at www.powerfulwomen.org.uk


About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with over 276,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.