Number of women at the top of the UK energy sector rises – but prevalence of all-male boards remains disappointing

POWERful Women and PwC have published the latest ‘state of the nation’ on the gender balance at the top of the UK energy industry.  

The 2020 annual board statisticsshow progress in the number of women occupying board and executive board seats – now 21and 13% respectively.  It represents a noticeable shift from last year towards POWERful Women’s target of 30% for executive board roles by 2030.

However, the statistics also show that faster progress is needed and that the number of all-male boards in the UK energy sector remains disappointing.

This year’s analysis by PwC for POWERful Women looked at the composition of the boards of the top c. 80 companies in the UK energy sector, focussing on the most significant employers.

The results show:

  • 21% of board seats in the sector are occupied by women – an increase from 16% in 2019 and 13% in 2018;
  • 13% of executive board seats are occupied by women – more than double last year’s 6%;
  • 11 companies (15% of those surveyed) have now reached the POWERful Women target for 2030 of having at least 30% of their executive board seats occupied by women
  • Since the last review in 2019 there are 25 more female board members and the number of female executive directors has increased by two thirds.


  • More than a third (38%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women on their boards at all – an improvement on last year’s 42% but this remains unacceptable.
  • More than two-thirds (79%) of the UK’s top energy companies have no women occupying executive board seats. This compares with 89% last year.

Ruth Cairnie, chair of POWERful Women, said:

This year we have seen the most progress since we started compiling board statistics five years ago. The increase in the number of women in executive director positions is particularly noteworthy.  Nonetheless, there is a long, long way to go before the representation of women at senior levels is sufficient or sustainable.  

“And special attention is needed with all the COVID-19 disruption to ensure that we don’t fall back on old habits and lose the progress that has been made – especially in building a strong pipeline of female talent for senior leaders who will tackle the energy challenges that lie ahead.  At times of uncertainty and disruption, the benefits of diversity and inclusion are more critical than ever.”

Steve Jennings, of PwC, commented:

“The progress being made by energy companies to improve gender balance on their boards is to be welcomed, but the pace of improvement makes it clear that there is a long journey ahead of us if 2030 targets are to be met. We are on the right path, but companies will not want to delay adopting strategies and plans which enable talented women in the sector to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

“As the sector moves through the energy transition, and adapts plans for a world disrupted by COVID-19, Boards will want to act on the advice of POWERful Women, who have been tirelessly campaigning for improvements to the balance of diversity.”

POWERful Women’s target for the UK energy sector is for 30% of executive board seats and 40% of middle management roles to be occupied by women by 2030.  

Evidence continues to show that greater diversity and inclusion in decision-making teams produces better business outcomes.  The latest report from McKinseyfinds companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.