Talent at the table: index of women in power and utilities, which analysed the top 100 companies in the sector, found that, on average, only 4% of executive board positions across the sector are held by women.
The figure increases to 18% for non-executive directors, with an average of 12% women across all senior management teams.
The report claims this lack of diversity is harming the power and utilities sector on the global stage. It says that as an industry, power and utility companies have under-performed global equity markets on price by two-thirds over the past five years.
This claim is supported by the figures for performance by gender diversity across the P&U sector itself. The most gender diverse companies, including National Grid and Centrica, on average offer a 7.7% return on equity, compared to just 4.5% from those with the least diverse boards.
Alison Kay, EY's global leader of power & utilities, told HR magazine the sector is in a “transitional phase” and the companies with the worst results still have a strong engineering-led culture. She added that she hoped annual reports will drive the diversity agenda across the next five to ten years.
“What we really want is to start a debate,” she said. “With only 4% of women at executive board level, they just don’t have a voice in the sector. If we can get people talking about this, coach people not to hire in their own image and to build up gender diverse talent pipelines, I think we can make real progress.”