Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

These 4 charts show the energy sector's gender gap and what needs to change

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Only one in five leadership roles in the energy sector are held by women. Image: Unsplash/Amy Hirschi

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

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  • The energy sector is one of the worst industries for women in leadership, according to the latest data.
  • Less than one in five leadership roles in the energy sector are held by women, and wages for women in energy are also 19% lower than for men.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released data that highlights significant gender gaps in the energy sector, and recommends what can be done to redress the balance.

Only one in five leadership roles in the energy sector are held by women, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022.

And that’s after 14 years of consecutive year-on-year increases, according to gender gap data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA data highlights significant gender gaps in the energy sector, and recommends several initiatives to redress the balance, and help the sector become more agile and innovative.

“The findings suggest a lack of career mobility and advancement for women in energy jobs compared to those in other sectors, which will affect both the attraction and retention of a diverse workforce. If women are not advancing in the energy sector, there will be fewer female role models and mentors to attract more women. Furthermore, if women working in the energy sector are unable to advance in their careers, they will be motivated to change sectors,” the IEA says.

Here are 4 charts that show the gender gaps in the energy sector, and what can be done to redress the balance.


Energy sector wages and opportunities are worse for women

A bar chart showing average gender wage gaps between firms, non-energy vs energy.
Women working in the energy sector earn less than men, and even less than in non-energy sectors. Image: IEA.

This chart compares gender wage gaps within the same company, as well as between different firms, across the energy and non-energy sectors. While there isn’t much difference in the gender wage gap for energy and non-energy within the same company, that difference becomes more profound in energy sectors across different companies. Women in the energy sector also tend to work more in firms where wages are not as high, more so than in the non-energy sector.

Wages for women in energy are also 19% lower than for men, an even greater gap than in the non-energy sector. Data shows the wage gap stays the same when accounting for ability, education and potential experience, implying that the gap is not because of gender differences in skill levels.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, women are also more likely than men to leave the energy sector for another industry.

Missed opportunities in innovation

A bar chart showing share of patents with at least one female investor in 2021.
Around a quarter of energy-related patents had one or more named female inventors Image: IEA.

Studies show that diversity is good for innovation, and good for business. But the energy sector is trailing non-energy sectors in this field too, and the IEA says this is an indicator of missed opportunities for spurring innovation.

This chart shows the share of patents with at least one female inventor involved. Around a quarter of energy-related patents had one or more named female inventors.

The energy sector is, like other sectors, also battling a lack of female STEM graduates, which reduces the pool of potential applicants.

But the IEA says ensuring transparency and fairness in recruitment and performance assessments help to attract and retain more women. Corporate training on unconscious gender bias can also play an important role in establishing more equal recruitment and assessment practices.

Lack of leadership roles for women

A graph showing women in leadership roles, by industry.
Far fewer women are hired into senior roles in energy than in many other industries. Image: World Economic Forum.

This chart shows that just 20% of senior management roles are held by women in the energy sector. Fewer women are hired into senior roles in energy than in most other industries.

Increasing the percentage of women in leadership roles not only creates female role models in the energy field, but also demonstrates that the industry is one through which women can advance, which is vital for attraction and retention, the IEA says.

Saadia Zahidi, head of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society, highlights the dilemma for industries that have a poor track record of hiring women into leadership roles.

“Women are tending to acquire the skills for sectors that already employ a lot of women. It goes back to this role-model effect. If we want to change things, we need to put more women in those leadership positions. Businesses and governments need to take a much more customised approach to ensuring that the right talent is being developed for these industries, for the future.”

Female entrepreneurship is lacking

Bar charts showing share of start-ups with gender diverse founders.
Globally, women are less likely to start up a new business in the energy sector. Image: IEA.

Lastly, this chart shows the share of start-ups with gender-diverse founders for energy and non-energy sectors. Again, the energy sector trails behind other sectors, which is damaging to economic growth, income equality and social inclusion. Just 11% of start-up founders are women in the energy sector, compared with nearly 20% in other industries.

Starting and running a business in any sector poses unique challenges for women, the IEA says, citing this OECD report, including institutional barriers to entry, tax policies and access to finance. Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs across all sectors could increase global GDP by $1.5 trillion a year, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Breaking the cycle

The energy sector has a ‘catch-22’ on its hands.

To increase diversity is to increase business and innovation opportunities, but the lack of female role models currently in leadership and entrepreneurship means attracting and retaining women in the first place is more challenging.

The low number of women already in energy may also be put off by the wage gap, and the opportunity gap, and are more likely to leave it as a result. Meanwhile, the smaller pool of female STEM graduates with the desired skills for potentially entering a career in energy are also more likely to be financially better off in non-energy sectors.

Creating an equitable environment for women is essential to resolving the catch-22, according to the IEA, and making the most of the latent potential in the energy sector.


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Related topics:
Equity, Diversity and InclusionJobs and the Future of WorkFinancial and Monetary SystemsEnergy Transition
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