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  • by Trevor Loveday

Water leads on female staff but utilities lag rest of UK

The water industry has continued to top the utility sector in its proportion of female employees with a near seven percentage points increase in 2023 on the previous year, and showed “significant progress with ethnic minority representation at leadership levels.”

The finding emerged from the latest inclusion and diversity survey by Energy & Utility Skills (E&U Skills). But the workforce body’s chief, Phil Beach, warned that the percentages of women and ethnic minorities in the utilities “lags significantly behind the UK as a whole.”

In its annual Inclusion Measurement Framework report, E&U Skills pointed to “positive improvements” in diversity and inclusion across the utility sector in 2023 with a hike in the proportion of women in the workforce taking it to 30% in 2023 from 26.5% in the previous year. And it found that the water industry had retained its place as having the highest percentage of female employees at 35% – up from 28.3%.

The report found that minority ethnic staff in the utility sector made up 12.3% of the workforce – a year-on-year increase of 5.3 percentage points. And it reported near threefold growth in the proportion of minority ethnic people holding positions in the sector’s leadership, moving from 2.8% in 2022 to 9.9% in 2023. However, in an accompanying, separate survey of utility leadership – defined as board members and those reporting to them – E&U Skills found the increase as 4.6% to 5.9%.

In his foreword, Beach wrote: “We are also seeing a continuing loss of diverse talent with increasing levels of women and ethnic minorities leaving their roles.” E&U Skills emphasised that while there had been progress in addressing the issue of ethnically diverse candidates being screened out during recruitment, this still requires improvement. 

The whole report showed an increase in LGBTQ+ representation from 1% in 2022 to 3% in 2023, “nearing parity with the UK workforce representation”. And according to the report, disabled people remain significantly underrepresented across the energy and utilities sector, making up 4% of the workforce, compared to 23% across the UK.


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