Utilities Unbundled 16
Enterprise and regulation

EY - Utilities Unbundled 16: Enterprise and regulation
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The economics of equality

As our new report shows, within the world’s top 100 utilities, just 4% of board executives are women. Alison Kay asks what a lack of diversity is costing the sector.

I love working in the power and utilities (P&U) industry – energy and water are fundamental to our lives. And I am particularly excited to be working in P&U now, at a time of monumental transformation.

Technology is a primary force behind this change, from smart grids and meters, to data analytics, to renewables. But change is coming from multiple directions, including:

  • Infrastructure investment
  • Cheap renewables and distributed generation
  • Empowered customers
  • Digitization
  • Market reforms
  • Regulatory and policy frameworks
  • Competition
  • Aging workforce

Addressing change requires diverse thinking and different voices.

More women needed at the top

Yet women are still regarded as a “novelty element” in P&U. Our new report, Talent at the table: index of women in power and utilities, reveals that, of the top 100 P&U companies by revenue:

  • 4% of board executives are women
  • 18% of non-executive directors are women
  • 15% of board members (both executive and non-executive) are women
  • 12% of the senior management team are women

Why is P&U ignoring women, a large pool of talent?

Diversity is a business issue, not a women’s issue

Gender diversity is not a women’s issue; it’s a business issue. Overwhelming evidence shows that diverse companies outperform their competitors. Yet the global P&U sector has significantly underperformed the broader markets in recent years, with global utilities lagging behind the global equity markets on price by almost two-thirds over the last five years.

Diversity is also linked to quality and innovation. As EURELECTRIC’s Susanne Nies said: “You need people with different perspectives to change things. With the same people thinking the same thoughts, it's impossible to change.”

A lack of diversity also puts utilities on the losing side of the war for talent. “For me, the most compelling reason for diversity is that we need to access the best talent. It's an enormously competitive world out there, and if we're not getting the best talent, we can't compete,” said National Grid’s Stephanie Hazell.

Start the journey

What is the solution? Do we need more coaching and mentoring of future women leaders? Could better networking, including across global markets, help? And, as utilities seek growth in emerging markets, can more be done to contribute to the education of girls in developing economies?

We do not have all the answers to these questions. But we are committed to exploring this issue, together with the P&U sector, over the course of our multi-year program – and embarking on the path to better gender equality.

For more information, contact:

EY - Alison Kay

Alison Kay
Global Sector Leader, Power & Utilities

London, UK
+44 20 7951 1786