On International Women’s Day, Hydrogen Industry Leaders explores hydrogen’s role in balancing the workforce, encouraging more women to enter the sector and the responsibility businesses have in ensuring the face of the sector changes.
It is no secret that there is a huge skills gap and a shortage of women in the hydrogen industry and beyond. Is this the optimal time for a career drive for women in the sector?
IRENA’s ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2022’ reveals that: “Encouraging advances have been made in workforce gender equity – with women accounting for one-third of all renewable energy jobs.”
However, further progress is crucial. As the transition gathers pace, the industry must focus on supporting workforce diversity in ways that offer equal opportunity across the board, not only in terms of gender but for youth, minorities, and marginalised groups.
What Is Hydrogen’s Role In Diversity?
Hydrogen Industry Leaders discussed the importance of supporting workforce diversity with Amna Bezanty, Strategy Lead at KEW Technology.
Amna began by explaining that the hydrogen industry is a new and exciting industry that is being explored by many companies to boost their transition to becoming sustainable, and it has a huge role in balancing the workforce.
She said: “Hydrogen is one of the sustainable energy vectors that are emerging to replace the predecessors, which are fossil energy sources like coal.
“It is emerging into a historically male-dominated industry, and we can’t forget that. Therefore, we already know we have the challenge because the preconception makes it a challenge.”
The role that the hydrogen industry can play is quite diverse, it can help decarbonise industry and it needs creative solutions to deliver it.
Amna continued to express that to see hydrogen being implemented in different sectors, it will have a wide application; therefore these creative solutions and diverse pathways are needed: “You need creative solutions and a diverse approach for it to be delivered. You need the inclusion of men and women.
“Half the population is women; you can’t just take one approach. If so, you will lose out on creativity points and different ideas to challenge other ideas. It isn’t just women that we need to see more of; we need a mixture of young, old and different cultures.”
How Can We Change Existing Perspectives?
Much still needs to be done to boost women’s participation at all levels of the sector, with actions being needed to ease their entry into the industry and improve their career prospects and progression. Initiatives to build awareness of the complexity of the barriers that women face are essential.
It has been found that women constitute just 20 per cent of panel speakers at green hydrogen conferences (Changing Transport), this reflects the lack of women’s voices in the sector. Amna explained that to encourage women to join the industry, she believes there are two ways.
The first is by changing existing perspectives of the industry, she said: “With the existing oil and gas industry, you have a lot of manual labour. This means there are arguments that the renewable energy sector will encourage what people think are male-dominated roles.”
This perception needs to change; it is not just dirty and manual. It is so much more than that and that is why we need these creative solutions.
Then the second way in which Amna believes the industry can encourage women is by showing action: “Action speaks louder than words – we need to increase the profile of existing women in the industry.
“We have Women in Hydrogen and other initiatives that help to highlight different women working in the sector and raise that profile. We need to keep increasing the profile of women already existing in the sector.”
How Can Businesses Help People Feel Represented?
Businesses showing representation is crucial to encouraging women to join the hydrogen industry. Amna revealed that when KEW Technology conducts interviews with women, it ensures there are women around because when she had hers, this wasn’t the case.
She said: “I remember when I had my interview with KEW, I was shown around and all I could see were men. I sat there thinking, do I want to take this job? It was a bit scary being the only woman.”
Businesses can send out subtle signals by having women present around that women can see represented and less intimidated.
Research has proven that companies with a diverse workforce outperform their less diverse peers, with a study by McKinsey & Company showing that companies with diverse leadership teams are more likely to have above-average financial returns.
The ‘Women in the Workplace 2022’ report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 36 per cent more likely to have above-average financial returns than companies in the bottom quartile.
Similarly, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25 per cent more likely to have above-average financial returns than companies in the bottom quartile.
Amna expressed that this evidence is a: “win-win for companies and corporates to push for diversity. It isn’t just a tick-box exercise for them to look good in the media and therefore must act. It is a real need, and it is for the best for companies too.”
In conclusion, there is a strong business case and a need for diversity. Companies with diverse workforces tend to outperform their less diverse peers, have better financial performance, and improved customer satisfaction.
Diversity can also help to drive innovation, meaning new ideas and approaches can help companies stay ahead of their competition.