As tonic for tumultuous times, erstwhile frontman of the band Talking Heads and renaissance man David Byrne launched a website and social media presence called Reasons to be Cheerful.
The aim was to tell stories which reveal that there are, in fact, a surprising number of reasons to feel cheerful. The articles balance a sense of healthy optimism with journalistic rigour, highlighting proven, replicable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
Inspired by his initiative, this article seeks to provide hope, rooted in evidence, that the energy industry is making tangible progress in the area of diversity and inclusion.
Statistics do support the idea that progress is being made and challenges remain. Late in 2019 it was reported that the UK’s 350 largest listed companies finally hit the milestone of having 30% of board roles being held by women.
Nine years earlier the 30% Club was founded with the aim of reaching the target, which seemed a long way off, with women holding only 9.5% of roles at the time. However, this report was countered by the news that the total number of black, Asian and minority ethnic board members, both executive and non-executive, decreased to 7.4%, down from nearly 9% in 2018, while the number of chairs, chief executives and finance directors remained at 3.3%.
Closer to home, I can report that in our most recent analysis of the executive placements that FWB Park Brown supports, the gender split on appointments across all client sectors (excluding Energy) was 64% male and 36% female. Even with the somewhat male-dominated energy sector included, we were still at 68% male and 32% female. Highlighting the ongoing challenges associated with greater diversity, any improvement in our BAME representation stats is negligible.
FWB Park Brown has also been running a Women in Leadership professional development course in conjunction with University of Edinburgh Business School for the last five years. In addition to the insight it offers to participants, this initiative has created a dynamic and pro-active cohort of alumni who are providing support across the Scottish business community.
At the recent Oil and Gas UK Business Briefing, Let’s talk about Diversity & Inclusion, the leader of the newly formed D&I task group, Craig Shanaghey, gave an impassioned presentation on how critical D&I is to the success of the industry’s Net-Zero Roadmap 2035.
Clearly stated and pragmatic objectives for attracting diverse talent into the industry, supporting their ambitions and ensuring they can enjoy a long career in the sector were presented, underpinned by a growing, committed and aligned community of champions and allies. It was acknowledged that this is aspirational but also clearly essential if the industry is to attract a further 40,000 people, a quarter of which will be in new roles.
It must also be recognised that in the energy transition, we finally have the opportunity to craft a message to attract new diverse talent by saying they can apply their skills, creativity, ambitions and broader aspirations to a sector that will make a significant contribution to a net-free carbon future whilst protecting the world’s energy supplies.
The industry is also changing its commercial habits and placing a more meaningful weighting on D&I across its supply chain and when tendering large scopes of work. It has become commonplace for operators and tier one suppliers to require that their suppliers have a diversity and inclusion policy that is as least as comprehensive as its own and that it is included in tender submissions. It is also reported that up to 15% of a tender score can be weighted towards evidence of tangible D&I practices.
#reasonstobecheerful: momentum is building, both tangible and aspirational initiatives are in place to stimulate increased D&I, a growing community of champions and allies exist, and the industry will transition to become a home for innovative and diverse minds. I truly believe that in the words of David Byrne, we are no longer on the “Road to Nowhere”.
Stuart Cochrane is a director at FWB Park Brown