The energy industry has always been regarded as male-dominated. As of 2013, females contributed to just 21 percent of the workforce in traditional energy sectors such as oil, gas and petroleum. In the renewables sector, however, females appear to be getting better represented. In Scotland alone, 28 percent of the employees of the renewable energy industry were female.
As the renewable industry is considered to be a relatively new segment and is still continuously undergoing development and investment, it opens up opportunities for females who would not normally be given a chance to work in the energy sector. Scotland is leading in the adoption of renewable energy in the UK; in 2012, almost 30 percent of electricity generated came from renewable sources, compared to just 8 percent in England and Wales. If the rest of the UK moves in the same direction as Scotland, the number of careers for women within the sector will only increase.
Although females are beginning to enter the energy workforce, it is questioned whether they are still mainly in sales and business-based roles rather than technical jobs. As of 2010, about 6 percent of the engineering workforce in the UK were female. It’s certainly true that fewer women pursue an education in science; In 2013, 16 percent of the graduates in engineering degrees were female, which was a small improvement from previous years. This slight growth over recent years can be shown through the fact that in 2013, 50 percent of the females employed by engineering companies were between 25 and 30 years old. This indicates there will be a gradual influx of younger females into technical roles within the renewable sector as engineers begin to graduate and build their careers within the industry.
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Initiatives are in place to help encourage and support females to pursue engineering and technical careers. A survey carried out in 2013 by British engineering firm Atkins on females in engineering careers found that more than half of the sample felt they were discouraged at school from pursuing engineering as it was being portrayed as ‘too difficult’ and ‘male dominated’. As a result of the study, Atkins has a made a commitment to increase engineering work experience placements for females and encourage women from the sector to become inspirational speakers for young girls.
A pledge was also taken by heads of talent at BP and Rolls-Royce to support this scheme. A network of entrepreneurial women in the renewable energy sector was also recently formed by Regan SW’s event manager, Rachel Hayes, which aims to mentor females looking to enter the industry and help them with career progression.
Despite the domination of males in the renewable energy industry, there is still a huge opportunity for women to get on board in not only business support roles but technical ones too. With females being encouraged to pursue engineering careers, we can expect to see a gradual influx of women in the renewable workforce over the next few years.
Alfred Ajani is Marketing and PR projects manager of The Asoria Group, a recruitment consultancy which focuses on the energy, property and digital industries. Women who are keen to contribute to the conversation are invited to check out The Green Recruitment Company’s new vlog focusing on women in the renewable energy industry.