IN 2020, it was estimated that women represented only 3 per cent of offshore workers in the UK’s oil and gas industry.

A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) in 2019 found that across the oil and gas sector as a whole, women accounted for 22% of the workforce – a situation Oil and Gas UK said was “not good enough”.

As the world pivots towards making renewables the main pillar of the energy industry, companies have sought to ensure that the sector isn’t burdened by the same stigma that has prevented women working in fossil fuels: namely, that it is a “man’s world”.

The IREA report from 2019 found that renewables did indeed fare better than oil and gas, with a 32% share of women in the workforce.

But as Karen Anne Hutton, head of repowering and life extension at renewables company RES, told The National, “work still needs to be done”.

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Hutton graduated with a master’s degree in civil engineering from Heriot-Watt University in 2001 and knew immediately that she wanted to work in renewables.

“I managed to spend my final year in Vienna, which was really interesting because at that point they were much more progressive in terms of sustainability and recycling,” she said.

“This was in the early days of the renewables industry and everything felt very exciting and dynamic. I enjoyed working with intelligent people who wanted to make a difference.

“When I graduated I did look at different options in the energy sector but I knew in my heart of heart’s that I wanted to work in renewables.”

She was employed as a wind analyst by RES in 2001, at a time when the presence of women within technical roles was far from the norm.

“It was male dominated. But coming from an engineering degree, where there must have been about one female in every 10 students, I was used to working in that environment.

“I began to notice that there were particularly few women working in technical fields.

“However, in the 21 years I’ve been here there’s been a huge increase in diversity.”

She now acts as vice chair for the company’s gender affinity network, which seeks to identify and troubleshoot any issues that women feel are impacting their ability to succeed.

“One of the main things we’re looking at is career progression. How we can get more women into the leadership roles, whether that’s by providing more flexible working for those with caring responsibilities or giving people support with their mental health so they feel they can actually take on a bigger role.”

As a global company, with projects in the UK, Canada, the US, Australia, and Sweden amongst others, supporting employees from a diverse array of backgrounds, all of whom face different challenges, is no easy feat.

It also requires a significant amount of resources: RES has a total of five affinity networks encompassing age, disability, gender, LGBT and race.

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And while supporting colleagues from these backgrounds is one half of the battle, said Hutton, the other half is simply educating the employees they work with.

“It’s often the case that bias and discrimination are unconscious,” she added. “People just aren’t aware that somebody’s experience may not be similar to their own.

“When I started working here there were around 100 employees globally. We’re now at 2500. Our business has diversified: we’ve moved beyond just wind into solar energy, battery storage and green hydrogen.

“But to do that we need to attract the best people and that means making sure that everyone feels welcome and included, whether they’re newly graduated students, former oil and gas workers or ex-military. We need to attract all of those transferable skills.”

It sounds pithy to say that diversity is important. But time and again studies have concluded that diversity can improve a company’s financial performance as well as their employee retention rates.

The growth of the renewables sector therefore offers an opportunity not only to create an energy system that environmentally benefits both people and the planet but that also creates an industry that welcomes – and benefits from – people from all corners of our society.