The number of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009. EPA PIC

FOR years, the energy sector has been male-centric and has come under increasing scrutiny for lagging behind other industries on gender parity.

New research shows that women still occupy less than one-fifth of senior leadership spots. Progress has been made, but there is still work to be done.

If the energy sector maintains its current pace, 50-50 gender parity won’t be reached until 2058.

S&P Global’s new report — #ChangePays in Energy — showed that there are signs that gender diversity in the global energy sector is improving and has accelerated in the past 10 years.

The number of female board members has nearly doubled since 2000 to reach 15 per cent.

Geographically, there is significant variation across countries and regions when looking at female representation among the most senior leaders in energy companies — the C-suite, board members and senior managers.

When looking at the share of female C-suite executives at energy companies globally, Malaysia with 20 per cent of its leadership made up of women is second only to the Philippines in the S&P Global BMI Energy (Sector) Index.

In addition, Malaysia outperformed the regional average in the Asia-Pacific region, achieving roughly 23 per cent of women board members and senior managers at energy companies.

The country ranks above a majority of the global developed markets, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. Looking across the region, others that significantly outperformed the regional average include the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong.

South Korea, Japan and Pakistan were listed lowest globally at around three per cent of women board members and senior managers in the energy sector.

When broken down into subsectors, utilities with women accounting for 17 per cent of board members beat the energy-sector average, slightly ahead of renewable electricity and other sectors, including independent power producers, oil, gas and coal.

While oil and gas slightly trailed, significant progress hasbeen made, but from a lower base. The share of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009.

Comparing the energy sector with the S&P Global Broad Market Index as a whole, which takes into account other industry sectors, the energy sector has closely tracked the broader swathe of industries when it comes to female board representation since 2013.

To complement the report, we spoke to senior women industry executives and regulators to hear their opinions on gender parity in the energy sector and how equality can be attained.

One theme that consistently stood out is the lower share of women in STEM specialties. As with many industries, our data shows that one reason there aren’t more women in the C-suite in energy is because there are not enough women a step below to promote.

These leaders suggested instrumental factors to get female managers into the organisational pipeline, which leads to leadership positions, including increased focus on sponsorship, mentorship programmes and networking groups in energy companies and expanding the pool of candidates for promotions.

In Malaysia, one of the key priorities of the government’s 11th Malaysia Plan is to improve the female labour participation rate by five percentage points to 59 per cent by 2020.

We noticed the government is already leading the initiative by implementing policies in its 2018 Budget that will improve the quality of education and better alignment of learning opportunities with evolving business needs, which is expected to help lower skills mismatch.

This report, #ChangePays in Energy, is part of the #ChangePays initiative launched earlier this year at S&P Global, focusing on the economic benefits of more women in the workforce.

Our research showed that greater women participation in the workplace could lead to stronger, healthier and more advanced economies.

We forecast strengthening the number of women in the labour force would add US$5.87 trillion (RM24.5 trillion) to the global market capitalisation.

Global gross domestic product could increase 26 per cent if women matched men in the workforce, which would benefit both advanced and developing countries.

The case for greater gender parity has become even more compelling. The numbers in #ChangePays in Energy show that lack of gender parity is a worldwide phenomenon.

Though there has been increased corporate attention on greater workplace inclusivity, there is still much work to be done to address diversity in terms of culture and definitions of gender roles. For real change to be made, the drive for gender equality needs to start at the top levels of organisations and be embodied throughout corporate culture in an authentic way.

By advancing this conversation and demonstrating the benefits of greater workplace inclusivity to the business bottom line, we can make the case that change will have wide-ranging benefits both to businesses and the global economy.

Change will contribute to the long-term success of the energy industry, and now it is up to companies to make it happen.

The writer is Global Head of Market Insights for S&P Global Platts, a division of S&P Global