The IEA reports that the energy industry is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse sectors of the economy. To accelerate a global clean energy transition, it is essential to adopt innovative and inclusive solutions and to embrace greater participation from a diverse pool of talent.
Salomé Germain Trigano, Strategic Consultant at Atlante, a Paris based consultancy that specialises in the energy, network and mobility sectors, tells us how crucial gender diversity and inclusion in the industry is and how ESCP Business School’s MSc in Energy Management (MEM) equipped her with the right tools to thrive in her career.
Can you tell us more about your current role and responsibilities?
My current job at Atlante has several aspects: from writing articles and studies on energy topics or answering business requests, to accompanying key players in the energy, network and mobility sectors. My client is a major French gas company, and we are working together on a programme towards managerial gender parity. My role is to deploy the roadmap in 35 countries and all Business Units of the Group, along with supporting them in defining and putting in place an action plan towards gender parity - taking into consideration the culture and maturity level of each one.
To empower a clean energy transition around the world we will need innovative business models and solutions. What is the role of gender diversity and inclusion in energy transition?
Diversity and inclusion lead to improved performance, creativity, innovation and decision-making. Specifically, gender diversity in the energy sector is vital for driving more innovative and inclusive solutions for clean energy transition all over the world. To give you an idea, diverse teams are 6 times more likely to anticipate change and respond effectively, 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready and 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their market.
In Europe, the energy sector is dominated by male professionals. Engineers are overrepresented (almost 80%), while women make up 22% of the energy sector workforce, usually in positions with limited decision-making power. The energy sector also faces stark gender gaps in innovation and entrepreneurship. Only 11% of energy sector founders are female, compared with 20% across all sectors. Female-founded startups are performing well but are underfunded.
The good news is that energy transition is creating new jobs and positions: there is room for improving gender diversity in leadership within the energy sector, thus improving performance and innovation. The renewable sector is already seeing improvements: 35% of the workforce is female. This is higher than in the traditional energy sector but lower than the share across the economy.
You are right to ask about gender diversity and inclusion, as they go hand in hand. Diversity is a mix. Inclusion makes the mix work. It means that companies need to create an inclusive work environment if they want to stay diverse. Hiring more women and working on the numbers is the first step, and it is necessary to make the changes to support their success. Most importantly, it is key to realise that gender diversity is not a female topic and that men have a role too, they should be involved and they will also benefit from a more diverse and inclusive work environment.
What are the current gender issues in the industry, specifically in clean energy and innovation?
The gender gap in the energy sector is particularly high. Possible explanations include the perception that the energy sector is a male domain, with persistent gender stereotypes; the difficulty of achieving a work and family life balance, which discourages women from taking on jobs; or insufficient career promotion opportunities and mentoring programmes for women.
The first issue is that it took a long time for companies in the energy sector to recognise diversity and inclusion as a real business topic. It has been seen as an HR topic or a social issue, but we are really talking about performance and profit. Even today, a small number of organisations have a dedicated role for D&I responsibilities, with most adding these activities to an existing full-time role. Certain companies in other sectors were pioneers, such as Orange or Sodexo, some key players in the energy industry now have a dedicated team and budget, while others should wake up or they will miss the train!
The second issue is cultural. As a result of persistent stereotypes or unconscious bias, there are less women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or working in plants. It comes from both sides: women lack confidence and make fewer applications than men to engineering schools and jobs; and employers are looking for males for those positions, consciously or unconsciously. I have worked in water treatment plants in Rajasthan and in the oil markets dealing with traders, this is very male dominated and I strongly encourage females to go for it too if they wish.
Finally, we hear a lot about the penury of female talents in the energy sector. I am not sure I agree. If you exclude half of the talent pool, I am not surprised that there is a “penury of talent”, females in the industry are waiting for the right career paths and opportunities. It’s up to companies to provide them with the right training and career boosters at the right time to catch and retain the best talents!
How do you think business can empower women and shape a greener future?
"To shape a greener future, it is key to bear in mind that females make up 51% of the population, 60% of graduates, and they represent 85% of consumer goods customers. Women dominate the purchasing decisions within the market. This means that €24.9 trillion of the world’s €31.15 trillion consumer economy is in female hands. To give a concrete example, early adopters of clean technologies, such as EVs, were mostly men, simply because some products are not adapted to women’s needs. Gender impacts consumer behaviour, adoption of innovative energy technologies, and public perception of different technologies. It might be useful to have more diverse teams to adapt products and use this purchasing power towards creating a cleaner world!"
What solutions have been adopted by the key players in the industry?
It took longer for energy companies to announce ambitious targets regarding gender parity. But we’re getting there.
For example, ENGIE’s ambition is to have women as 50% of their managers by 2030. It is one of the three extra financial KPIs of the Group, on the same level as safety and neutral-carbon targets. Led by Renata Spada, Group Talent Director at ENGIE, the Fifty-Fifty programme has been launched to reach this goal and coordinate actions at the Group level. The subject is considered as a business topic: indicators and targets, action plans for all Business Units, strong sponsorship from the Top Management - again, we are not just talking about a social issue, it is a business and performance issue. The roadmap involves awareness-raising actions, training, coaching and mentoring, anti-sexism campaigns, HR policy reviews, KPI follow-ups, as well as alliances with other big groups. Actions focus on all phases of the life-cycle of an employee: from attraction to recruitment, integration, development, promotion, retention and departure.
I have seen some other initiatives in the energy sector, particularly in smaller companies.
And how is it going so far?
Slowly but surely! We are seeing more and more companies commit to gender parity, or at least, they have the tools to implement the changes.
Rating agencies have been a game-changer, as Bloomberg or Equileap now include Gender Diversity in their evaluation criteria. Organisations such as EDGE measures where companies stand in terms of gender balance across their pipeline, pay equity, effectiveness of policies and practices to ensure equitable career flow, as well as inclusiveness of their culture. Their certification is recognised by rating agencies and truly valued by companies. It is not only a certificate, EDGE helps companies to define a concrete action plan.
Another key player is JUMP, the leading social enterprise in Europe working with organisations for more diversity, gender balance and inclusion to achieve an equal and sustainable society. Isabella Lenarduzzi, social entrepreneur and Ashoka fellow, founded JUMP 15 years ago. By organising events, training, surveys, studies, media presence and working directly with companies, JUMP has created the largest network of corporate diversity stakeholders. 200 clients use JUMP to develop a more inclusive work culture, which will allow them to perform better.
We must be aware that this is a cultural change, it will take time and it needs to go through several phases. Before putting in place an action plan, companies need to establish the foundations of cultural transformation, stakeholder alignment, raise awareness, adapt the organisation and then establish action plans. It is not beneficial to go too fast: you will just face fear and rejection from employees. Once the cultural transformation is firmly established and the employees committed, the results will be more visible, grow strongly and stabilize. It is also key that the senior management support the initiatives and invest money in it.
Are you finding yourself to be innovative in your role? If so, how do you enable innovation at work?
I would need to ask my colleagues, I try as much as I can to adapt to other cultures, countries and to understand people. It really helps me in my day-to-day job to lead Business Units towards gender parity. I cannot put in place the same action plan in Chile, Belgium, UAE and China. It does not work. It is a business plan, but still, we are dealing with a cultural change and people with diverse personal backgrounds. To target actions, the first step is to understand the culture and where employees are in their journey towards gender parity and inclusion. Then, I try to find shrewd solutions for each one of them to be innovative!
What drives you at work? Which aspect of your job is most exciting to you?
Firstly, the team. Developing sound and trusting relationships at work is so important to me. And Atlante is a great place to work. I am surrounded by passionate people from the energy, network and mobility sectors and I feel truly lucky to have such a talented team of colleagues. Women make up 50% of the company, and we keep track of this KPI. Secondly, the project’s benefits for others. I keep motivated by seeing results and improvements and cannot give up until there is something positive coming from my daily work.
Regarding the most exciting aspect, I think it’s all the challenges that energy issues bring to the table. I like fast-paced environments, quick-wins and problem solving, so energy is definitely my thing!
What is the importance of having a 360-degree view of the energy industry?
We all have preferences for the sector in which we want to work, I entered the MSc in Energy Management programme as a gas girl, and still am! But whether you want to work in the oil & gas industry or in electricity, you need to have this 360-degree view to understand the key challenges and constraints. As a price reporter at S&P Platts, I worked on the clean oil market, but it was a clear advantage to have knowledge of other markets: shipping, gas, LNG and hydrogen; both in terms of business and geopolitics or policies. I might work for a gas client today, but for another client in the solar industry tomorrow. The MEM programme gave me the tools to be polyvalent.
Tell us about your experience on the MSc in Energy Management and how the programme helped your career?
It was a fantastic experience! The courses, professors, conferences, campuses and other students too. ESCP provides a wide range of opportunities. The MEM programme neatly couples the fundamentals of business management modules with a focus on the energy industry. The programme was holistic and provided a clear view of the energy industry (oil & gas, power markets, electricity, renewables etc.), in terms of business and resource management. The ESCP Business School, being constantly ranked amongst the best business schools in Europe, constitutes a great asset in the eyes of energy giants, as evidenced by ESCP’s extended network of corporate partners.
During an Alumni meeting, I discovered S&P Global Platts and ended up applying for a price reporter role in the clean oil market. I had coaching sessions as part of ESCP’s student services (thanks Maria Tsianti!), to prepare for the interviews and got the job a month later.
Living in London was also an amazing experience and most importantly, this programme introduced me to great people!
Tell us more about your background and what led you to apply to the MEM programme?
I think travelling and discovering new countries and their use of energy led me to the MEM programme.
I have always been passionate about geopolitics, especially in the Middle East. As part of my studies at Paris Dauphine University I lived in Tel Aviv, I discovered the region and its complexities, some of them being linked to energy issues (Eastmed, an Israeli-European gas pipeline project for 2025, for those who can remember!). I got to discover how complex energy issues can be.
I came back to Paris to complete an MSc in Finance, then went straight to India to work in a clean-drinking water company. I was looking forward to discovering this country as a future worldwide power. Working in Udaipur in Rajasthan was also the first time I experienced being the only woman in a company.
Finally, discovering the fascinating world of Air Liquide, a leader in industrial and medical gases, really validated my decision to apply to the MEM programme. As a competitive strategy analyst within the Group Competitive Intelligence department, I got a deep insight into the gas market and its challenges. This experience allowed me to discover the hydrogen industry and its stakes as a potential substitute for fossil energies in the near future.
Looking back, what were the most valuables outtakes your gained from the programme?
Networking and meeting people from all over the world. If I remember correctly, there were 15 nationalities among 23 students. This diversity of cultural, academic and professional backgrounds created an ideal ground for personal growth. We could also help each other a lot: some were more experienced with finance, while others were more knowledgeable on the technical aspects of the oil industry. I really felt cohesion within our cohort.
The MEM programme was much more than an ordinary master’s degree. The conferences and meetings with companies organised by the Energy Management Centre gave us the tools to be ready to launch our careers.
Your hopes for the future?
Firstly, restaurants and bars reopening in Paris!
But, coming back to diversity and inclusion, maybe no more sexism and everyday sexism at work, in the street, or anywhere else. Sexism is something that every single woman experiences, and I am also talking for myself as a young woman working in the energy sector. Sexism can make women lose confidence in the workplace. I truly encourage young women to study they want to do, travel wherever they want to go, and apply to jobs even if they do not fit all the requirements!
Feeling inspired by Salome’s career? To follow in her footsteps, check out ESCP Business School’s MSc in Energy Management programme.