That’s the question EY asked in its 2014 report entitled “Talent at the table: index of women in power and utilities” (the “Gender Index Report”). The Gender Index Report looked at the top 100 global utilities, based on revenue, and created a baseline for gender diversity across their boards of directors. It found that, within the power and utilities sector (“P&U”), only 4% of executive board members, 18% of non-executive directors, 15% of board members and 12% of senior management teams of these top utilities were women.1

Given the research that has demonstrated a direct correlation between gender diversity on boards and positive financial performance, the Gender Index Report concluded that the need for board diversity from a gender perspective was critical to the growth, innovation and success of the P&U sector.2 At the end of the day, “[a]t heart, the question of gender diversity on boards is not a women’s issue; it’s a business issue.”3 This is especially true, the Gender Index Report argues, since the sector is in a state of massive flux, and “[h]ow energy is produced, who generates it, and how it is bought, sold and distributed is all changing – and all at the same time”.[iv] EY’s 2015 update[v] to the Gender Index Report shows that we have not only failed to increase the number of women on boards in the P&U sector, we’ve actually taken a step backward.6 Though there were marginal increases in some categories7, women’s overall representation has decreased. Interestingly, the 2015 report featured a “top 20” list for gender diversity that included three Canadian entities: BC Hydro (number 9), Hydro One Inc. (number 13), and Hydro-Quebec (number 13, down from number 10 last year).8 Despite having the strongest regional showing on EY’s “top 20” list, North American utilities still reflect a small number of women being represented at the top levels of the industry and little hope for any substantial increase without proactive and focused action.

Though most professionals in the Ontario industry might have correctly guessed at the statistics the EY reports make so abundantly clear, they probably don’t have as fast an answer for EY’s question above: “If your daughter asked you how to succeed in this industry, what would you say to her?”.

As energy lawyers in this sector, we certainly don’t have a good answer to that question. As female professionals in the energy sector, we know that it’s an important question to be asking.

In that spirit, over the next few weeks we will be blogging about our discussions with some leading women in the sector in Ontario to get their take on the status quo. We are interested in learning more about their current work within the ever-changing landscape of the energy industry in Ontario, and what challenges and potential victories they see looming on the road ahead.

In addition, given the EY reports, we also want to understand what their path to success has looked like. For that matter, we’d be interested to hear how they define the term “success” within the industry, without presupposing that it is means the same thing to each of them. Along the way, we’ll keep asking EY’s question, and hoping that the daughters, nieces, friends and other girls in our lives don’t ask it before we have a better answer.