Utility companies have been accused of being “lacklustre” towards gender diversity by data consultancy firm The Pipeline.

Statistics uncovered in Women Count 2018 report, which considered the number of women with senior executive roles, revealed utility companies are not representative of their customer base.

The Pipeline, which was established in 2012, said it enables organisations to achieve diversity goals.

It said: “Companies which provide utilities to the British public’s homes may be vying for more market share and the top spot in customer service awards, but they are lacklustre in terms of gender diversity.”

The report highlighted that over the last three years there has been no progress on gender diversity in senior roles in the FTSE 350, with utilities being close to average for the three measures focused on.

Utilities were shown to have:

  • 18 per cent representation of women on their executive committees
  • 6 per cent representation of women in profit and loss roles on their executive committees
  • 13 per cent representation of women as executive directors on their boards

There are exceptions within the sector including Severn Trent’s chief executive Liv Garfield who leads her executive committee, which contains four women (including herself). Garfield was named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the year in May.

Severn Trent has 38 per cent of women on its board and 40 per cent on its executive committee, with 37 per cent of senior managers also female.

The Pipeline suggests the profitability of companies with more women on their executive committees increases by 5 per cent.

One reason utility companies say they struggle to improve diversity is because it is difficult to attract and keep employees with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) based skills.

Thames Water is another company in the sector which strives to include women in senior roles and boasts a 33 per cent representation of women on its executive committee. The Pipeline says this is a “huge leap” from when the company had just one woman on the committee.

The achievement is thanks to a plan masterminded by Janet Burr, the company’s HR director.

She said: “We’re really proud to be leading the way with gender diversity. By increasing the number of woman in senior roles at Thames Water, there are benefits for the whole business.

“We focused on three key steps: succession planning all the way through the organisation, setting up talent pools with at least 50 per cent women and creating belief in women with potential that they actually could step into a senior role.”

In response to the latest findings Nicky Morgan, Conservative MP and chair of the treasury select committee, said the lack of progress calls into “serious question” the possibility of reaching the UK’s target of 33 per cent women in executive roles by 2020.

Women Count 2018 gives us the proof that having more women on executive committees boosts profitability. It unpacks in forensic detail the status of women in FTSE 350 firms, the number of women on executive committees, and the correlation between female representation and economic performance.

“This lack of progress calls into serious question the possibility of achieving the UK’s target of 33 per cent by 2020 which I set in response to the Davies report, as minister for women and equalities in 2015.

“Businesses that don’t understand the need to appoint more senior executive women are failing to meet their full potential. I ask them to read this report and wake up to the reality, in their own interests and the country’s interests.”

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