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New research by the Energy Workforce & Technology Council and Accenture found that the percentage of women in the U.S. energy technology and services sector rose to nearly 20% in 2020 and set a baseline for race and ethnicity at 25%. 

The progress for women over the past three years came despite the pandemic, which caused widespread global workforce disruptions. The study found that the percentage of women in the sector rose to 19%, up from 16% in 2018, almost reaching the Council’s 20% goal. However, this figure trails women’s 47% representation in the overall U.S. workforce. 

Building on the gender diversity study published in 2018, the 2021 study encompasses approximately 250,000 workers, including more than 63,000 in the U.S. This year’s report, which reflects 2020 data, uses a revised methodology to include race and ethnicity along with gender.

Ethnic minority groups, which were not part of the 2018 study, comprised 25% of the sector, compared with 36% for the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report highlighted areas companies can address to increase leadership advancement for women and minorities, including:

  • 40% of companies have C-level endorsed inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategies;
  • 56% offer paid primary caregiver parental leave;
  • 66% offer learning and development initiatives targeted at I&D;
  • 32% offer basic flexible work programs, such as telecommuting (pre-pandemic); and
  • 40% offer formal mentorship programs.

Accenture’s Ben Carey, a managing director who leads the energy equipment and services practice, said executives would be wise to invest their time in I&D actions that drive lasting change.

“Retention and advancement programs can grow with increased endorsement from C-suite leaders, whose visibility is key to boosting workforce diversity,” Carey said. “For example, leaders should collaborate more closely with employee resource groups where more women and minority leaders can show how they navigated their careers so that others may better follow their example. This will be vital for all functions, but especially the digital and service functions that will help drive the industry’s recovery.”

The report makes additional recommendations to enhance the resilience of the future energy workforce:

  • Attract diverse, innovative talent, strengthen employee value propositions and identify new sources of talent to shape the future of the industry;
  • Focus on retention—keeping women and ethnic minorities in the workplace; and
  • Amplify advancement opportunities—mentorship and leadership role-modeling.

Research shows companies benefit from an inclusive leadership team and workforce. Businesses with inclusive policies report significant increases in creativity, innovation, openness and profitability.

ESG investors are also asking companies to provide measurable I&D plans. For many investors, issues of diversity and equity are intertwined with environmental and governance metrics, which means I&D impacts overall ESG performance.

According to McKinsey & Co., companies with gender diversity on their executive team were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability and value creation. Companies with ethnic diversity in the C-suite were 36% more likely to have above-average profits. The greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. According to Weber Shandwick, half of millennials want to work in a diverse and inclusive workplace.

The Energy Workforce & Technology Council provides the research, training, resources and networking opportunities to help members establish I&D policies, programs and cultures. 

“Our studies demonstrate the value of tracking I&D metrics and evaluating what works,” said Council COO Molly Determan. “The 2021 study points to a focus on developing a pipeline of diverse talent for leadership roles, offering competitive compensation, reviewing company practices and implementing I&D policies that include gender and ethnic diversity."