Room at the top for women in data?

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ

Women comprise one quarter of executive committees in energy and utilities companies in the FTSE 350 index. The average for all the 350 companies is far below that at 16%. This is according to Women Count 2017, the second annual report by The Pipeline.

It seems that electricity, oil, gas, steam, waste and water companies are also doing well in terms of executive level gender parity in other aspects too. Within companies in these sectors, women comprise 45% of roles that have responsibility for profit and loss. The report also shows that electricity, oil, gas, steam, waste and water companies have a higher proportion of women on the main plc board compared to other FTSE 350 firms.

Despite these figures showing a higher than average proportion of women at the top level, the energy and utilities sectors have decidedly low numbers of women. A LinkedIn analysis found that just under 27% of all gas and oil industry profiles belong to women. For the tech industry, the same analysis found that figure to be just marginally higher, with 30% of profiles in that sector ascribed to women.

This analysis is not perfect due to the self-selecting nature of professional social media profiles. Despite the flaw, it does indicate that it is possible for the tech industry, including data and analytics, to increase the number of C-suite women, even though it is starting from a low base. Technology has a long way to go. According to the Harvey KPMG CIO 2017 Survey, the number of women in leadership positions in IT is just 9%, a figure that has remained the same since last year. Unfortunately, a clear path on how to get there is not immediately apparent as the data does not tell us how the energy and utilities industries have been able to fill its executive roles with such a proportionally high number of women.   

There are efforts being made to increase the number of women in leadership positions and female participation in the data industry. The independent Hampton-Alexander review for the Government made the recommendation that, by 2020, one third of executive pipeline positions in FTSE 100 companies should be filled by women. Women Count publisher The Pipeline has a flagship programme to prepare women for executive CEO and executive committee roles. The next Women in Data conference will take place in November. The Female Lead is a not-for-profit organisation that raises the profile of female leaders in a bid to encourage girls and young women to follow suit. It was set up by data heavyweight Edwina Dunn, one half of the duo behind the Tesco Clubcard.

The hope is that the efforts of these campaigns and initiatives will soon intersect and the number of exec women in the data industry will increase to the levels of the energy and utilities companies and maybe even beyond.

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Knowledge-based content manager, DataIQ
Toni is the senior features editor responsible for the origination of DataIQ's interviews, articles and blogs.