Gender parity progress is slow in the global power and utilities sector, with the number of women in board positions rising just 1% in the last three years, according to EY’s Women in Power and Utilities Index 2016.
The Index — which identified the largest 200 utilities by revenue and ranked them according to representation of women in executive positions — found only 25 women in board executive positions globally (5%). Research also shows women occupy just 19% of non-executive board positions and 14% of senior management team (SMT) roles. The proportion of women in SMT roles was the only statistic to increase each year from 12% in 2014 and 13% in 2015.
The Index’s global list of the top 20 most gender-diverse Power and Utilities (P&Us) places Eskom at sixth place. In addition, the list of the top 200 P&U companies with the most gender diverse workforces in the Africa and Middle-East region also places Eskom at sixth place and Mozambique’s Electricidade de Moçambique at 53rd.
With 345 women out of a total of 2,149 positions (16%) currently in board roles, it will take 515 more women appointed to reach just 40% representation. And to grow from the existing 5% women in board executive roles to 10% requires another 24 women to be appointed.
Regionally, the Americas have the highest percentage of female board executives (led by Latin America with nine percent), followed closely by Europe (7%), with Africa and Middle East at 6 %. These regions also top the list for the percentage of women in non-executive board roles. Asia-Pacific had the lowest percentage of women board executives at just 3%.
“Companies should strive to have a corporate culture that allows women to sit on their boards. Most women are very industrious, enterprising and focused bringing difficult perspectives in the boardroom thus enriching the corporate agenda. They have a longer term vision with a keen eye on business sustainability,” said Gitahi Gachahi, EY Eastern Africa Regional Managing Partner.
At the current rate of progress, the advancement of women will not happen anytime soon. P&U companies must address the things that are frustrating the achievement of better diversity in boardrooms – especially as research shows that the most gender-diverse companies outperformed the least gender-diverse companies by 14.8% on return on equity”.
In these times of disruptive change, as the sector undergoes fundamental transformation, diverse leadership teams make good business sense. Diversity goes beyond gender but getting women into leadership is an obvious starting point for P&Us.
Putting gender higher up on a companies’ agenda makes good business sense, and the end result will be a better working world for all.
“Ensuring that women are present at the boardroom table is an important starting point for most sectors. Women’s inherent fresh thinking, problem-solving skills and collaborative leadership styles instantaneously makes them fit in board positions. These qualities not only help improve financial performance but also build the brand of these companies,” adds Gachahi.