Women can play bigger role in wind’s top jobs


November 2, 2015

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It is almost time to publish our annual Top 100 Power People report, which is due out next Tuesday. But there is one fact that
will not surprise you: there is a man at number one.

Not much of a revelation there, right?

This is set to be our fourth-annual Top 100 Power People but, in all those years, only once has a woman featured in the top ten: Anne McEntee from GE came in at fourth last year.

And female representation is not much better across the table. We had just four women in the Top 100 in 2012, six in 2013, eight in 2014, and this year it is set to slip back to seven. Why is this so?

Well, it could be a problem with the people compiling the list — us! — but we do not think it is. We would like to be able to include more women, and we make sure to include the industry’s best in the shortlisting process. In fact, this is also the first year that we have had a woman — Laurence Mulliez — on our judging panel.

However, when it comes to the final cut, we judge everyone the same. We want to make sure we get the most powerful 100 and not simply fill quotas. If we are going to grow the number of women in the Top 100 then we need more women in wind’s top jobs.

This is a contentious issue for most companies, who say they want to ensure that they are run by the best, most experienced people regardless of gender. But the problem comes if it is only men who can secure the lower-level jobs that enable them to develop the skills to succeed in the top roles. Companies are absolutely right to want to have the best people in charge, but they can only ensure this is the case if women have the change to develop.

In order to achieve this, more firms should be promoting flexible working, supporting mothers to return to work after giving birth, and tackling job stereotypes in schools. None of this is a quick fix but, over time, would help increase female representation in top jobs.

And that would surely bring new perspectives and skills that would help companies to thrive. If the wind industry is to deliver its long-term aims of reducing the cost of energy from wind farms, then it could only be a benefit to have fresh perspectives to challenge the established ways of working. This is only one way that women can make a key contribution. We are sure there will be many more.

It is not just the Top 100 that made us think. Lord Mervyn Davies last week published his annual review of the proportion of women in board level roles in the UK’s FTSE 100 firms. He also raised the target of 25% women on FTSE 100 boards in 2015 to 33% in 2020.

FTSE 100 firms in the UK hit 26% female representation on boards this year, which is the sixth-highest in the world when ranked by large publicly-listed firms. The highest figure is Norway, which has reached 35%, and is closely trailed by 32% in Sweden and France.

These figures look like good progress, but there is a problem. Davies identifies that most of this growth is women being given non-executive jobs, which is in stark contrast to the men who still hold most of the executive roles that influence the firms’ day-to-day running. This does not help talented women develop the skills they need to be a chief executive.

Industries including wind have made great strides to support women but, as both the Top 100 and Davies report show, there is still a huge amount left to be done.

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