On 2nd March Lean in Equity & Sustainability (LiNES) and POWERful Women (PfW) collaborated to host an event at International Energy Week in London. ‘Creating an Energy Industry Value Proposition’ invited industry delegates from around the world to recognise the need to attract and retain diversity of talent for a successful energy transition – and to discuss how to do it. In this blog, Georgina Worrall, Project Manager of PfW, shares her key insights from the event.
I was delighted, alongside my co-host Lamé Verre of LiNES, to welcome such an influential group of speakers to spark an important debate with delegates at the Energy Institute’s IE Week 2023: Laura Sandys CBE, Chair of the UK Government’s Energy Digitalisation Taskforce and NED at SGN, Energy Systems Catapult and Ohme; Ivan Baldwin, Director of Business Development for UK & EU Nuclear Power at Bechtel and President of Women in Nuclear; Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, Chief Commercial Officer at Mixta Africa; and Duncan Clark, Head of the UK Region at Ørsted.
So why do we need an Energy Value Proposition (EVP)? Lamé set the scene by saying we all know that talent is hard to come by, and as sectors look to decarbonise, there is a clear call to action for those hard-to-abate industries – we need to attract new talent into our sector to develop innovative ways todecarbonise and support global net zero ambitions.
Creating a clear Energy Value Proposition is critical to this. And with other industries, like tech and banking, evolving value propositions more effectively and currently winning the “war for talent”, the energy sector needs to focus more sharply on innovative talent acquisition and retention strategies to ensure a sustainable future.
“As the world faces a climate crisis and all sectors need to decarbonise, leveraging DEI as a conduit tosustainability and innovation is imperative for the diversity of thought necessary to address the talentchallenge across industries,” she said.
Diversity of thought for a new energy world
Unfortunately, when it comes to gender diversity – the focus of POWERful Women – progress remains slow. It was good therefore to hear from our co-founder Laura Sandys, who set up PfW in 2014 with Baroness Verma when they saw so few women at the top of UK energy companies. She noted that we continue to work hard to push the diversity agenda but we are only seeing incremental changes in the proportion of women working in energy – the step change hasn’t yet happened. While retail sector is 65% female, for example, energy is around 30% at most.
Laura engagingly described a future energy system that is much more complex, dynamic and exciting, with blended solutions for consumers, and different forms of consumer experience. It will be an industry where new thinking and diversity of thought is required, but this is a big challenge for the sector, so we need to start recruiting people from outside.
“I would like to see someone from Zara or someone with a lived experience of being on benefits designing the consumer proposition in energy, for example.” Addressing company leaders directly, she warned “if you don’t deliver diversity, you are not going to meet your business goals – so let’s plan for the future, which is super different from today.”
The role of leadership and allyship
Effective leadership clearly plays a vital role but what does being an inclusive leader mean? Ivan Baldwin described his interesting journey to taking on the role of President of Women in Nuclear. Having witnessed the lack of diversity in the business community in Cumbria, he reached out to Black Women in Business to ask what he was doing wrong and was promptly invited to present at their conference. “Suddenly I was in the minority for the first time in my life, but I was welcomed into that room.”
Now he is paying it forward. As President of WiN and as a senior leader at Bechtel he agrees that the sector needs to attract and retain talented people from all walks of life. “In my role I have an opportunity to also help and welcome people and to create a better working environment.” He recommends shadow boards as a way to give young people leadership opportunities by contributing to the main board’s thinking and recognises the importance of allyship too. “My role is an opportunity to put a spotlight on the role of men. If we expect the 20% to carry the load for all of us, we will fail.”
Lamé agreed that allyship is “an opportunity to look behind and pull someone forward, because we need the best of the best in the room for the energy transition”.
Addressing the talent issue – aligning core values and strategies for change
But how specifically do we address this talent issue, so that we meet targets? A vital step is to listen to women’s experience and find out what makes a difference to them – what will attract talented women into the workplace and keep them there?
Start by getting the fundamentals of recruiting and retaining talent right, said Rolake Akinbugbe-Filaniof real estate and sustainable communities developer Mixta Africa, who recently witnessed a job advert that referred to “he” throughout! Rolake believes companies are moving too slowly and need to be bolder, recruit beyond traditional sectors and consider their value proposition. “Young people want to see how companies align to their core values on the environment, sustainability and governance.”
Drawing on her own career experience, where a career break led her to assess her range of skills and then pivot into a new company, she shared some advice for other aspiring women. “Ask yourself – are you hardwired for change?” Adaptability is a key skill because the requirements of the future are so unpredictable, but certain things are within our control, so having one’s finger on the pulse of market trends is valuable. For example, Rolake decided to upskill from core finance skills and so took a course in renewables and climate financing. “Be a life-long learner, be your own data scientist, be resilient”.
Addressing the talent issue – practical steps by companies
For Duncan Clark too, a company’s value proposition is key, and he believes that Ørsted’s clear and strong sense of purpose as a renewable energy developer brings everyone together. “We get 80-100 applicants for every vacancy, which gives us the privilege of choosing really motivated talent who want a purpose-loaded professional life.”
But he recognises that there is still a long way to go and thanked POWERful Women for setting up the Energy Leaders’ Coalition to bring company leaders from across the sector together. “We spar, we tell our success stories, we challenge each other and try to raise our game.” The company leaders all share the same difficulty of creating a value proposition that will appeal to a segment of what they do. “Our sector is becoming a much bigger part of the energy industry, with a huge build rate, so this means attracting more people by broadening our appeal, particularly for field-based roles.”
Some of the practical steps that Orsted have had success with include:
“We realised that if we are going to be putting people out on vessels working on offshore wind farms, then more important than their historical technical base is their ability to play a part in the team to find solutions to problems.”
It was great to see so much engagement on these insights from the audience during the Q&A. Wrapping up, Lamé encouraged all delegates to go away and make changes in their own sphere. “We don’t have all the answers and no one size fits all, but we need to put structures in place to support diversity of thought, including setting KPIs in the right places and pushing down the supply chain.”
Thank you to all those who contributed and let’s keep the conversation going!