The Women in Utilities Network (WUN) has urged utility companies not to use the pandemic as an excuse to hide their gender pay gap data.

The group called on the sector to publish data for 2019/20 despite government suspending the requirement to do so.

Reporting the data became a requirement for companies with more than 250 staff from 2017. In 2018/19 141 companies in the utilities sector reported but, following the government’s suspension only 79 have.

At the start of lockdown the government decided to suspend the requirement for companies to publish data on gender pay gap, just a week before the deadline to submit.

WUN, founded by Angela Peart along with Cadent’s Angie Needle and Rebecca Sedler, from EDF, has appealed to companies to complete their data, which they say is crucial for transparency about diversity across the sector.

The group analysed the companies that did report this year and found the average percentage of women in the top pay quartile was 18 per cent, compared to 41 per cent of women in senior level roles across other sectors.

WUN said the figures not only show a lack of diversity in leadership roles – and the perspective and skills that go with it – but also a need for more role models to inspire women in junior positions to stay and develop in the sector.

Another fear, WUN said, was that the figures from the companies that reported are far more balanced than those that opted not to, so the true picture of diversity may be materially worse.

They encouraged companies that have adapted to the initial turmoil of lockdown to share their data as an essential and measurable part of addressing underrepresentation that forces businesses to focus on diversifying their workforce.

WUN said: “Representation of women in the utilities sector, as detailed above, is still woeful. We continue to lose talented women to other sectors. Through WUN’s ongoing work to support women in the sector, it is clear that there is still a huge challenge in levelling the playing field.  We need to be able to give women confidence in their ability to rise through the ranks despite the challenging male dominated environment they often find themselves in.”