POWERful Women’s Annual Conference 2021: Securing the diversity we need for Net Zero – how to bring gender commitments to life


“The Annual Conference was time well spent. Great information and insights presented by inspiring leaders.” Not our words but just one of the many positive comments we got from delegates at the end of our 2021 event last week, which was attended by over 500 people from all over the UK and throughout the energy industry.

A huge thank you to all our speakers and workshop hosts and to everyone in our network who joined. It gave us two days of inspiring and engaging discussion, ideas and challenges, with practical outcomes for advancing diversity and inclusion in our sector.

A particular thanks to the UK Energy Minister, the Rt Hon Greg Hands, who reflected on CO26 and said it was “an undeniable truth” that “without the skills, innovation and leadership of women, a successful, equitable energy transition will be out of reach.” 


Leading insights, commitments and challenges

The conference began with an interesting preview from National Grid’s Lauren Van Der Kolk and our Chair Ruth Cairnie on our joint research on DE&I for the Net Zero Agenda, which will be published in the new year, and included a message from National Grid CEO John Pettigrew.

Then we were delighted to launch the Third Annual Report of the Energy Leaders’ Coalition, which included a pledge from the leaders of 16 of the UK’s largest energy employers to step up their action on diversity and inclusion to meet the sector’s challenges ahead. The report revealed the progress they’ve made so far against their targets and showcases a series of case studies on the good D&I practice that is making a difference to their data – so do have a read.

In the panel that followed, leaders from three of the ELC companies – Lindsay McQuade of ScottishPower Renewables, Duncan Clark of Ørsted, and Dominic Kieran of Cavendish Nuclear – spoke about their positive commitment to this agenda but were also frank in acknowledging that they need to do better. And it was great to have Melissa Stark from Accenture, Hannah Mary Goodlad from Equinor and Colette Cohen from Net Zero Technology Centre speaking from their own personal career experiences and challenging industry leaders to ‘live and breathe diversity’.

In the final session, we heard from Rachel Fletcher of Octopus Energy, Elaine Smith of the Oil and Gas Authority and Adrienne Kelbie, coach and former CEO of ONR, discussing with Energy Institute CEO Nick Wayth whether it was time for the regulators to wield a stick to drive better diversity and inclusion in the industry.  Or if it was better for companies to recognise that it’s vital to their success and build their own way. 

Some really moving and thought-provoking speakers and I’ve come away from it feeling more emboldened about the challenge ahead!”


Watch the full recording of Day 1 of the POWERful Women Annual Conference 2021, here


Strategies for Success

Day 2 was all about the practical action to deliver on commitments. We were excited to welcome leading experts in the D&I world to run four interactive and dynamic workshops on the important topics of inclusive leadership, hybrid working, unconscious bias and microaggressions in the workplace.  These were bitesize sessions kindly provided by TLC Lions, Steps, Equal Group and Enact Solutions and if you’d like to find out more, please do get in touch with them.

The response we had to the workshops was brilliant – participants found them thought-provoking, inspiring and at times emotional.  And they took away practical actions they could implement within their own organisations and in their daily lives.


So what were your takeaways?

We liked the challenge from one of our speakers to proactively “pull up a chair” at the table for a woman who should be there.  And to ask the youngest or quietest woman in the room for her opinion.  There were also many challenges to ‘call out bias’ and for companies to create a culture and environment comfortable enough to make this possible.


Thank you

A final thank you once again to our sponsors for making it all possible:  E.ON, RWE, SSE, Wood, Subsea 7, Orsted, EDF, bp and ScottishPower.  And a big thank you too to the behind-the-scenes teams at POWERful Women and the EI who allowed the sessions to run so smoothly.

If you couldn’t make it this year, then you can watch recordings of all the Day 1 sessions on our Youtube Channel.


Thank you to everyone who joined us and engaged in the event on social media.  Until next year!


 “It was my first time attending the event and I took a lot away from it”

“Best conference yet!”   


To access our 2021 Conference page, click here.