While one of the main challenges surrounding green hydrogen is price, there is another glaring obstacle: the lack of women working in the industry.
As a result, initiatives such as Women in Green Hydrogen (WiGH) have launched in a bid to break the outdated mould. WiGH is a network of women working in the green hydrogen sector, providing a platform to connect and empower women to be heard within the still male-dominated sector.
Last October, I attended the WiGH conference in Brussels, as part of the European Hydrogen Week event, and it was refreshing to witness the drive and passion among women for the future of green hydrogen. However, it has made me ponder whether challenges with gender and diversity in the sector are compounded by having a separate conference for women in hydrogen and I believe their event should have formed part of the main conference, rather than running as a separate forum.
The barriers for women working in green hydrogen
Currently, a mere 22% of women are represented in the oil and gas sector, according to joint research from the World Petroleum Council and The Boston Consulting Group, while 75% of the top UK energy firms (inclusive of oil, gas, power and renewables) have no women in executive director positions according to recent research in the 2022 State of the Nation report conducted by the POWERful Women initiative (which calls for an inclusive energy sector) and PwC, highlighting just 20 of the top 80 UK energy companies have any women in executive director roles. Despite the desire to advance their career in the renewable energy field, women often face hurdles that do not seemingly impact men in the same vein, including the pressures of striking a sustainable work/life balance. The glass ceiling metaphor, the invisible barrier which prevents women from getting the promotions they deserve to advance their position on the career ladder, unfortunately remains firmly in place and progress is slow.
It is estimated that around 20% of panel speakers at green hydrogen summits are women, according to WiGH research, despite diversity being a key component in overcoming many of the challenges that require an assortment of brain power.
Diving deeper into the talent pool during the recruitment process is vital for accelerating a business’s success towards meeting its long-term sustainability goals. While there is a more conscious swerve away from the old-fashioned approach of hiring ‘pale, male and stale’ candidates, the lack of women working in green hydrogen is still testament to the urgent shake-up that is required to integrate diversity into every workplace. Yet addressing the gender gap in this industry, and increasing the visibility of women in this field, shouldn’t feel insurmountable.
Driving innovation – and diversity
Acre aims to play a key part in driving the understanding of equitable and good talent management, furthermore, embedding sustainable changes into our clients’ organisations to ensure every skillset is given the platform - and voice - it deserves.
Chloë Hunt, Global Director of Research & Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Acre, said: “By reporting and benchmarking both the industry and our processes, we are able to see how a search or a particular area is performing against industry norms and how we might improve it.
“In addition, we can look at how we might actively headhunt and attract diverse talent into our roles to offset against those industry norms.”
With the sector still in its infancy, the innovation and new ideas required to steer green hydrogen forward to decarbonise the energy industry, is reliant on passion, experience and knowledge. A more diverse workforce with a diverse skillset and knowledge will add immense value to business operations, leveraging different expertise and points of view to create new solutions.
A staunch effort to attract more women to work in the green hydrogen field will ensure a wider expanse of thought processes, generating robust conversations regarding implementing solutions. More diverse workforces can increase profit too, according to Hewlett-Packard, yet gender parity is still lagging considerably, as fewer women choose an industry that remains so male-dominated.
The WiGH network has launched a hydrogen-specific mentoring programme, an initiative to empower women in junior-middle management roles to break through the barriers and advance to the next stage in their career by connecting them with experts in the field.
It also arranges events to enable women to network and take part in various debates about the latest developments in such a key technology.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women accounted for 56.8% of the labour force in the US in 2021, but only held 29.1% of chief executive positions. How can we better support these individuals in the labour force to remain and progress within their profession?
Without effecting the urgent change required, we face a perpetual cycle of women struggling to enter a male-dominated industry. One reason for the lack of female presence in green hydrogen is because it isn’t appealing for women to enter a career that seemingly lacks accessibility.
It is therefore vital that we help identify the barriers which might be referenced to people's progression in the industry via conversations within the market, to drive a more effective talent management process and gain wider access to the industry.
Perceptions of the industry might dissuade people from entering so with that in mind we can look at how to offset and mitigate those stumbling blocks, addressing them early in the process to unlock future talent.
At the next conference, I would like to see the presence of allies outside of the women already spearheading within the industry who can raise this issue and flag up what needs to be achieved to break down the barriers. I would hope that demonstrating what the industry is working towards in terms of driving diversity within the talent pool, and showcasing those new to the sector, will unveil greater opportunities for women and address the imbalance by providing a visible platform and networking facilities.
Nancy Schurig is Principal Consultant for Acre Europe where she supports leading renewable developers and clean technology innovators to secure innovative technology and commercial leadership in the region. Acre is a 20-year-old dedicated sustainability recruitment group with a strong global footprint across carbon solutions, renewable development and climate technology recruitment.