Have you ever imagined how your world would look like if one morning you woke up and 8 out of 10 women you knew had been replaced by men?
Diversity and inclusion has been the subject of increasing interest and attention over the years. The emergence of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the rise of the Environmental, Social and Governance performance as a key driver of shareholder support, along with a growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of increased gender diversity have all contributed to that. Diversity has also been a major discussion point for the energy industry, which is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse markets internationally.
While the case for change toward greater gender diversity in the energy industry is strong, the matter seems to have been overlooked in Greece. Acknowledging this gap, the Greek Energy Forum (GEF), always committed to promote the principles of diversity and inclusion, embarked upon a new initiative ‘Diversify Greece – Gender Balance’. The aim of this initiative has been the development of a platform which will foster dialogue and share international best practices, all the while driving the empowerment of women through the promotion of role models of women and men active in supporting the principles of diversity and inclusion in the energy sector.
A first step toward the achievement of this goal has been the development of a quantitative and qualitative study undertaken by the GEF team in order to develop a better understanding of the current baseline of the gender balance in Greece. The findings of this study have not been very encouraging so far, with women being significantly underrepresented in the energy industry, and especially at higher echelons. Speaking of the latter, which is this year’s UN theme for the International Women Day, GEF Gender Balance findings show a mere 12% representation of women in top management positions in the Greek energy sector, significantly lower than the already low global average of the industry which stands at 17% (with developing countries also included in the calculation). These are significant discrepancies, especially when we consider that women make up almost half of the total labour force in the Greek economy. Just imagine how your world would look like if one morning you woke up and 8 out of 10 women you knew had been replaced by men. This is the reality that we are observing in the energy market in Greece.
Digging a little deeper into the data, the representation of women in Greek corporations where there is some form of state participation seems to be higher, at 15%, potentially driven by certain hiring practices and preferences, compared to the private sector where the presence is just at 9%. A striking finding has been the fact that, in almost half of the companies in the sample, top management roles have been exclusively comprised of men, while almost half of the women in senior management positions have non-Greek origin. The latter is also the case for the two only women in the sample that occupy the position of CEO/Chairman. Another noteworthy point has been the fact that half of the women identified in the sample (50%) are mentioned as members of management boards without a particular role assigned, with the second most popular position being that of the general advisor/director (25%). While these are very interesting facts that confirm the poor presence of women in the Greek energy sector, the GEF Gender Balance team has also communicated a short survey to all public and private companies involved in the Greek energy industry aiming to give a clearer picture of the situation across all levels.
Of course, one cannot help but wonder why the representation of females remains meagre, especially at higher level positions. While there is still no single convincing explanation for that, one could potentially look for the answer into a combination of factors. Most of the times, the usual suspect has been the low presence of females in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic disciplines, where most of the jobs associated with the energy sector usually fall under. However, in Greece, the picture seems to be better, with the percentage standing at 40%, compared to the global average of around 25%.
Several international initiatives have been established on an international level over the past decade which have been very successful in promoting the diversity principles. Similarly, many of the international energy companies have started reporting publicly their gender balance and pay data and have launched initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, not only in terms of gender, but also race and sexual orientation. Government support has also gone a long way in driving this change through targeted legislation (i.e. UK requires all private and voluntary-sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish data on their gender pay gap).
However, despite the efforts and the fact that there seems to be plenty of room for the industry to clearly communicate its breadth of opportunities and attract more female candidates, it will take time to get the equation right as we are starting from a very low base. Also, the challenge will be to maintain meritocracy all the way and get the gender diversity properly achieved as we do not wish to create positive discrimination.
The GEF Gender Balance team, led by Dr Valentina Dedi with the active involvement of Mary Mavrokapnidou, Dr Angelos Gkanoutas-Leventis, Eleni Sotiropoulou, Melissa Vrapi, Nikolas Trikeriotis and Christine Daskalopoulou, is doing its outmost to promote it within the activities of GEF, while remaining committed to use its voice, influence and energy in trying to promote the matter in all its shapes and forms.
Considering the great support and interest that the GEF initiative has received, it seems that the issue of diversity does not only sit very closely in the GEF team’s hearts, but it is also receiving a wide recognition. However, the challenge of driving impactful change on this front requires a collective effort to be successful. Anyone, interested in the GEF Gender Balance activities and in contributing to the team’s efforts to bring change forward, can contact the team via the email firstname.lastname@example.org