Empowering women in energy
Today, women in energy are embraced and empowered to make a difference to business. This is an encouraging step forward. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited and surprised when I recently saw a female engineer on-site in Baku.
There’s still a long way to go to level the playing field, as women only account for around 10 percent of the global energy workforce. This statistic was noted in our most recent Global Energy Talent Index (GETI), which surveyed more than 20,000 people across the oil and gas, renewables, petrochemical, power and nuclear sectors. To illustrate that further, the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics states that women are in 44 percent of all jobs, yet only 15 percent make up the employees in the architecture and engineering sector.
Gender inequality in the energy workforce isn’t new and we can’t afford to overlook half of the potential candidate pool. For example, the oil and gas downturn saw an exodus of around 450,000 employees, including many experienced staff taking early retirement. As business starts to ramp up again, talent holes are appearing. For the energy sector, especially in engineering, attracting and retaining talented, smart, exceptional women is a skills gap solution staring it in the face.
That is, if we had enough women in engineering to draw from. It’s disheartening to read that the proportion of young women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012, according to the Women’s Engineering Society. It’s vital the industry does more to attract females to pursue a career in engineering, which starts with a culture shift.
This cultural change begins at the top and is two-fold. Ernst and Young found that only 11 percent of the top global oil and gas executives are women. We need more women at the executive level, so they can be role models to younger women everywhere, showing them it’s possible to break the glass ceiling.
All too often especially in certain countries, male counterparts are surprised that I’m the COO of billion-dollar workforce solutions provider, Airswift. Just like my surprise to see a woman engineer, this needs to change too. If we can’t lead from the top, the energy sector will find itself with a limited approach to an executive talent pipeline. Women in renewables agree, as GETI revealed that 25 percent thought the gender gap was the biggest issue facing their sector.
Next, we need to create an inviting, open workforce across typically male-dominated roles, like technical, offshore and international assignments. If you’re the lone woman in a department of men, you already feel like you stand out. That breeds extra pressure to perform. Women need senior sponsorship in these roles, so they’re offered the same opportunities to advance. Getting this right could impede the number of women leaving the industry mid-way through their careers and build the pipeline of senior talent.
Cultural change can be complicated but utilizing the softer benefits of digitalization could allow companies to make quicker advancements when it comes to incentivizing women to join and stay in the workforce. According to GETI, 40 percent of women in the oil and gas sector believe flexible working would help the industry attract and retain talent.
It’s so important that women know they are welcome in the energy sector. We need more intelligent, brilliant women across all levels of our organizations for the sector to prosper. This includes making strategic decisions in the boardroom to designing new technology and maintaining it in the field. The industry needs to keep working toward a truly gender diverse sector until it becomes a reality.
Janette Marx is the COO at Airswift.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.