Women We Are Losing: The triggers making women leave their jobs in energy – and lessons for companies on retaining talent


A PfW Insight Piece


Interviews with women who have recently left their jobs in the UK energy sector have revealed that ongoing issues with culture and inclusion are triggering decisions to quit, despite a passion for an industry where they want to make a difference.

In a new Insight Piece [1] published by POWERful Women for National Inclusion Week, the top three reasons for leaving cited by the women who shared their stories were:

  1. Feeling under-valued. Despite working hard, women were not being given opportunities to progress or to contribute in a way that aligned with their values. They experienced limited options and/or job satisfaction, leading to a lowered sense of purpose and impact.
  2. An unmanageable work-life balance, with not enough flexibility both in terms of location and working pattern.
  3. An unsupportive (sometimes ‘toxic’) working environment, including a macho culture, age bias, bullying and no genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion from leadership.


The research, aimed at leaders, managers and change-makers in the UK energy sector, has used the stories shared voluntarily by women in a variety of roles and seniority to provide recommendations on how the sector can retain the talent it needs for the energy transition.

It follows the ground-breaking, data-led research published by POWERful Women and Bain & Company in 2022 into women’s experience in the energy workplace and the barriers they were facing in progressing their careers [2].

In a deeper dive, this deliberately qualitative insight piece explores the factors that trigger some people to quit and suggests the positive actions that organisations and leaders might take.

Asked what they need from an employer, the women said they want to …

  1. feel empowered to make a difference. So companies could, for example, ensure they clearly align the job to values, purpose and the wider impact on society; offer opportunities to innovate and contribute ideas and knowledge; support women to upskill; and provide a workplace culture where they can be a change agent.
  2. experience the right supportive and inclusive culture. Companies could, for example, make flexible working more integrated and responsive to people’s needs; demonstrate inclusive leadership in practice (leaders and managers); role model healthy work-life balance at the top; take an intersectional approach; and establish support networks.
  3. see leadership walk the talk on diversity. Companies could, for example, check they are enacting their EDI commitments on the ground and that policies are working for women; appoint and retain more diverse talent including leadership; shift to new skills and strengths beyond the traditional; and help women thrive through development, sponsorship and mentoring.


Katie Jackson, Chair of POWERful Women, commented;

“These women’s stories are powerful. They reveal the lived workplace experiences, concerns and motivations behind taking that most difficult and momentous of decisions – to leave a role that you have loved. The passion for the energy sector and wanting to make a difference comes through strongly in the conversations, but culture makes a difference and inclusivity is key.”

The results of the conversations align with conclusions from other data-led studies on why people are leaving roles across the whole workforce (such as during The Great Resignation after the COVID-19 pandemic), and particularly when it comes to women’s experiences. Unsupportive organisational culture, inflexibility and lack of opportunities to develop and make a difference come out strongly in various studies [3].

Katie continued;

“We hope that the insights provided from these interviews help complete the picture provided by other data-led research. We hope it will give food for thought for organisations and leaders, to help them avoid the wrong choices when it comes to retaining talented women and equip them for the challenges and opportunities of the transition to Net Zero.”



Anna Stanford, Communications Adviser: +44 7961 234634  anna@powerfulwomen.org.uk


  1. ‘Women We Are Losing: The triggers making women leave their jobs in energy – and lessons for companies on retaining talent’ September 2023. Available to download here: 2023-Nov – Women We Are Losing PfW insight piece FINAL – WEB – PAGES
  1. Cultivating Female Talent in Energy: What the sector can do to resolve barriers faced by women in middle management’, published by POWERful Women and Bain & Company, April 2022 https://powerfulwomen.org.uk/cultivating-female-talent-in-energy-report/
  1. See for example:

McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/great-attrition-or-great-attraction-the-choice-is-yours

PwC: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/news-room/press-releases/2023/pwc-global-workforce-hopes-and-fears-survey-2023.html

NES Fircroft and Energy Jobline with PfW: https://www.womeninenergy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Women-In-Energy-Global-Study-2022.pdf

Encompass Equality: https://www.encompassequality.com/2023-why-women-leave

About POWERful Women

POWERful Women (PfW) is a professional initiative working to achieve a gender-balanced, diverse and inclusive energy sector in the UK to meet the needs of a net zero future.  Our target is for at least 40% of middle management and leadership roles to be held by women by 2030. To deliver this we work with business leaders, D&I experts, government, the regulators, aspiring women and partner organisations to accelerate change. We support, challenge and connect: publishing research and annual statistics on female representation in the industry; encouraging collaboration, learning and sharing through the Energy Leaders’ Coalition; running a mentoring programme for women; providing practical career and D&I resources, case studies and guidance; communicating the benefits of better diversity and inclusion; and running networking and learning events. We Find out more at www.powerfulwomen.org.uk