Australian renewable energy sector lacks women on company boards

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The value women bring to senior positions is clear, yet women are not adequately represented at a Board level across the renewables industry. Natalie Collard, who has chaired the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Women in Renewables initiative since the start of this year, told pv magazine Australia that while other sectors have similar issues, the renewable sector is “lagging behind when we should be leading.”

“Women fill less than a fifth of the roles responsible for planning, directing and controlling business activities across the Australian electricity supply industry,” said Collard.

Natalie Collard

Clean Energy Council

And gender diversity becomes even scarcer at the top. While there are no firm statistics for renewables, the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency estimates that in 2017 only 10.3% of company directors in the energy industry are women. This number is less than half the average for all other industries across Australia at 27.2% – albeit only slightly less that the global average for the energy industry at 12.1% (estimated by Credit Suisse Gender 3000 index in 2015).

Collard, who is also Executive General Manager, Industry Development at the CEC, said “Executive roles have the power to create change. While many senior male leaders have been champions of diversity in our industry over the last few years, we need more women at this level to really lead this change, and demonstrate that diversity leads to better decision-making and improved financial outcomes for organisations.”

Despite the low percentage of women in director roles across all Australian industries, numbers are slowly rising. Credit Suisse estimates that between 2010 and 2015 women on boards in Australia nearly doubled from 10.8% to 20.1%, suggesting this upward trend will continue. In 2017, the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) estimate that 33% of new appointments this year to-date were female. The AICD began tracking gender diversity in executive roles for ASX 200 companies in May this year.

Graph recreated from data accessed via the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency- Data Explorer

pv magazine

To promote women at the Board level in renewables, the CEC awards an annual scholarship to a senior female professional working in the industry. Now in its third year, the 2018 scholarship was awarded to project engineer Vanessa Ratard at the CEC Annual General Meeting last week.

Ratard has 17 years’ experience in the industry and currently works as a senior project manager in Alice Springs for engineering firm Ekistica. She recently led work by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency into hybrid power generation at mine sites in remote Australia. Ratard said the opportunity “will boost my career to a new level and allow me to be a champion for women.” The scholarship will provide director training and mentorship throughout 2018.

Collard, who has extensive experience across sectors and holds a number of positions on Boards, said Vanessa “was an exceptional candidate with an impressive range of experience across the industry. Her strong leadership track record, integrity and aspiration will be a role model for other women”.

For more information about the Clean Energy Council’s Women in Renewables initiative or to sign up to the mailing list, please visit cleanenergycouncil.org.au/women.