“Diverse teams deliver the best decisions,” explains Beverley Smith, Director of POWERful Women, an organisation which aims to advance the professional growth and leadership development of women across the UK’s energy sector.
Can you tell us a bit about POWERful Women and its aims?
POWERful Women was launched by Baroness Verma and Laura Sandys in summer 2014, with Ruth Cairnie, former Executive Vice President for Shell, joining as industry chair in 2015. It is a UK-based professional initiative which aims to advance gender diversity within the energy sector in the country – hence the pun with the word POWER! Our target is for 40% of middle management and 30% of executive board positions to be held by females by 2030 and we record companies which pledge support for advancing the professional growth and leadership development of women in the UK’s energy sector.
How will it achieve these targets?
We aim to deliver these targets in three ways. Firstly, by campaigning for recognition of the targets and reporting progress throughout the various power industries; secondly, by supporting women in their careers, through advice and mentoring; and thirdly with practical support through events and networking and also the provision of resources that help companies tackle gender diversity. On our website, for example, (www.powerfulwomen.org.uk) there is an expanding repository of resources which is free to use and includes signposts to toolkits, articles, case studies and a wealth of other reference material to support and inform positive action.
What attracted you to the organisation?
POWERful Women is a committed but friendly organisation determined to make a real difference. We have several events a year ranging from speed mentoring and networking through to the launch of our annual board statistics. Gender diversity makes clear business sense and I think this organisation understands that and is committed to enabling businesses to help themselves.
We’ve been talking about this for a long time: are we actually making progress?
Yes, we have reached a real turning point in the UK now, I think. The government is committed to change, and the Davies and Hampton-Alexander targets, which are aimed at increasing the numbers of women on boards and in the executive pipeline, are making a difference. The gender pay gap reporting which will be published in April 2018 will also enable us to look at the percentage of women in each salary quartile, at least for companies with more than 250 employees. It will be much more obvious then which companies are really working hard in this area.
What are the most important thing(s) the O&G industry can do to empower women?
Set gender diversity targets, report them and track them. Try to sponsor and support women because in general women tend to be less confident about putting themselves forward than men. Remove the unconscious bias that results in people recruiting in their own image.
And what can each of us do individually?
Everyone should ask what targets their company has and how they are tracked. Women should seek out mentors and sponsors to support them: the POWERful Connections section of our organisation supports senior women in reaching energy’s ‘top table’ by linking them with some of the biggest names in the sector for several months of one to one mentoring. And don’t be afraid to put yourself forward!