Tackling the Green Ceiling: Getting Women into Energy

Tackling the green ceiling: Getting women into energy
Chief People Officer Helen Bradbury shares how E.ON is opening doors for women to obtain green skills and gain easier access to the energy industry

Despite efforts to shoehorn people into green industries, women make up a little over a third of the workforce across green industries, 10% less than in other industries.

The subsequent ‘green ceiling’ for women is posing yet another obstacle in the way of closing the skills gap that is necessary to addressing the climate crisis, as addressed at COP28.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that innovative solutions require a diverse and equitable energy sector, with its research showing that although making up 39% of the global labour force, women only account for 16% of the traditional energy sector’s manpower.

In management, the numbers dwindle further, with women facing similar barriers to their counterparts in other industries. But the energy sector is working to use its ongoing transformation to its advantage, to employ a diverse talent pool to help create a greener tomorrow.

One energy provider working to tackle this issue head-on is E.ON.

“The green ceiling must be tackled if we’re to meet net zero and combat the climate crisis,” declares Helen Bradbury, Chief People Officer at E.ON UK. “Organisations like E.ON are actively seeking to help improve sustainability in homes, businesses and across entire communities, and attracting female talent at an early stage is crucial to help break down some of the barriers to entry into green roles.”

In the UK alone, E.ON employs more than 220 apprentices, both male and female, across more than 50 different schemes organisation-wide, including 23 degree apprentices on fully-funded education pathways. This is just one way it is taking active steps to stop the green ceiling emerging further.

She continues: “E.ON's inclusive approach to development is designed to address inequality in all its forms by creating opportunities that are accessible to all.”

To tackle the green skills gap, E.ON is responding to its own research which found that almost half of young people aged between 16 and 24 wish to forgo traditional higher education to enter green employment sooner.

This encourages Helen to advocate for the offering of apprenticeships and learning opportunities that create pathways into work as well as recognised qualifications that colleagues will have for life.

“Democratising access to green skills training — whether entry level, middle management or through our Senior Leadership programmes — is critical to taking the necessary steps to tackling the growing green skills gap,” Helen adds.

By collaborating with LinkedIn, E.ON has rolled out LinkedIn Learning, which offers E.ON employees access to thousands of on-demand, expert-led online learning courses. More than 56,000 on-demand learning videos have been watched as part of the programme, with two of the top five most completed courses focused on green skills.

Facilitating women with access to the energy industry

LinkedIn studies have also shown women are entering the green talent pool at a higher rate than their male counterparts in the last two years, but even though this is positive progress, the pace of change is not fast enough to keep up with the ever-widening green gender gap.

This, Helen adds, also exacerbates the issues of female underrepresentation in leadership roles.

“In order to support women in breaking into the energy industry, it’s important for businesses to focus not just on hiring but on how they can train and develop professionals with the skills needed for these emerging and in-demand roles,” she continues.

“At E.ON, we believe it’s vital we create pathways into green jobs for current and future colleagues that provide them with a robust qualification and then create a learning environment to ensure that they continue to grow their skills and thrive in the future.”

This has materialised at E.ON in the form of its Fast Forward network, which is focused on supporting women’s career development and increasing representation and gender balance across the organisation. Personalised development is provided through the Women in Leadership programme, with listening circles, curated learning paths and other content available to help tackle key barriers to women's growth in the energy industry, as well as other green sectors.

But there’s no overnight solution to ensuring the growth of a workforce’s green skills, even once they’ve broken into the industry.

“It’s a systemic issue,” Helen highlights. “Businesses and HR teams can support on the journey to more green skills by ensuring they have an in-depth understanding of the skills needed to achieve its climate goals. Tailored and targeted reskilling programmes, as well as on-the job training for employees can then be implemented.”

Even with there being plenty of progress made and a considerable way to go, Helen emphasises that this should not stand in the way of supporting the adoption of green skills, particularly in the underrepresented minority of the workforce that is women. But one thing is clear — this can only be improved through cross-industry collaboration, and forming a united front in tackling this challenge.


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