Energy sector LGBTQI+ survey calls for real inclusivity over ‘pinkwashing’
The third annual survey held by industry-wide network Pride in Energy, supported by the EI, shows steady but slow progress for LGBTQI+ people working in energy in the UK. However, it also reflects a clear call from staff for their employers to more vocally and tangibly support the community.
Echoing the results from past surveys, there was an observable disparity between individuals’ perceptions of their own companies and the wider industry, with 71% of respondents considering their employers to provide an inclusive environment (ranking it 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 for inclusivity) compared to just 21% thinking the same of the wider sector.
When asked how this perception issue could be resolved, the most favoured measure, by a margin of more than 50% over the least favoured, was for there to be more visible LGBTQI+ role models and advocacy by senior leadership. 24% of respondents reported no visible LGBTQI+ role models or allies in their senior teams or management. The least favoured measure for solving the perception problem was corporate visibility and PR activity, reflecting a rejection of ‘pinkwashing’ by employers.
More positively, the survey showed that 76% of respondents do have visible LGBTQI+ people or allies in their senior teams or management. 63% also said that there is an LGBTQI+ network in their company. There also has been a plateauing of respondents (14%) who still said they witnessed or experienced discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the past year, unchanged from the 2022 survey.
Anecdotal feedback from respondents coalesced around two key themes; that the overall trend of LGBTQI+ inclusion is a positive one but there is progress yet to be made in addressing intolerant corporate cultures. In particular, some organisations dedicate a lot of attention to Pride Month and other PR activities but less by way of real action on inclusion in the workplace, where consistent visibility is needed.
Anonymous responses included:
“Comments and jokes made about LGBT issues which, while not necessarily malicious, do not foster an accepting atmosphere where I would feel comfortable coming out, and dismiss or trivialise the things that mean people don't feel able to come out.”
“The company pays lip service to diversity and inclusion. I think it is important to much of the senior leadership but nobody drives it forward and so efforts are often left to the one, out, lower-level employee to organise.”
“LGBT+ inclusion is very tokenism - based on PRIDE month and the LGBT+ theme of the time only. Not actually fed into understanding or priority of anyone in the organisation.”
Joshua Atkins, Founder and Chair of Pride in Energy said:
“This year’s research shows positive progress in some areas, but there’s a clear rejection of ‘pinkwashing’ and a call for organisations and their leaders to tackle the inclusivity deficit head-on.
“Diversity is at the heart of net zero. Without resolving the people and skills challenges we face as a sector, the UK will struggle to deliver the decentralised, decarbonised and digitalised energy system it needs.
“Pride in Energy is keen to work closely with even more organisations to help drive positive change.”
Pride in Energy is running a programme of monthly discussion webinars seeking to remedy some of the issues identified in the 2023 survey. These workshops are:
- What makes a good LGBTQI+ Employee network?
- What does 'visibility' look like?
- Making your language, policies and comms inclusive
- Developing active allies
Notes to editors:
- Pride in Energy is a diversity forum and network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) people working across the UK energy industry and their allies.
It was launched in 2017 in response to a need for an organisation to address LGBTQI+ issues in the energy industry. It is supported by the Energy Networks Association, the Energy Institute, Energy UK, and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers.
- 251 people from the energy industry were surveyed.