How Shadow Boards provide a platform for greater representation, diversity, and opportunity
How can we address the greatest challenge of our time - climate breakdown - and realise a sustainable net-zero future with equity for all without diversification of voice around the tables, in our communities, and in the boots on the ground?
This year’s International Women’s Day 2023 is celebrating #EmbraceEquity. Equity versus equality is recognising that we’re all different and the tools and support we need to bring our best selves to any situation will reflect those valuable differences of experience. Whereas equality provides the same tools to all. Equity is essential for the future success of society, and the renewables sector in delivering against our bold ambitions to reach net zero, as without equity we’ll find ourselves in a room with half the team missing and the remaining team members all wearing the same size shoes. Doesn’t sound very effective, does it?
So, what can we all do to take steps to ensure a more equitable future?
One example is the Shadow Board, set up by RenewableUK in 2019 and now in its second iteration of membership. The RenewableUK Shadow Board’s primary objective is to bring a greater diversity of voices into key strategic, policy and operational decision making, strengthening RenewableUK as an organisation overall and supporting a forward direction that better represents our industry and the communities we work with, through a process of engagement, positive disruption, challenge and advocacy.
“An equitable energy transition will only happen if diverse communities are included. Whilst we are seeing movement, we still have some way to go to achieve true gender balance. We must also appreciate that we are not all living the same experience. As a woman of colour, I think it’s important to highlight that intersectionality’s create barriers which make the pathway to equality even more challenging.
What we continually struggle to do in the sector is get hold of female talent from the beginning and support growth in careers when we do get them. We must encourage opportunity and development at the earliest stages from a diverse range of communities. The carefully thought makeup and diverse representation in initiatives like shadow boards allow for this.” Amisha Patel, Global Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Mainstream Renewable Power
“I was once told as a professional that I could not be considered, nor even consulted, over an opportunity because I was single with a child. Neither status has held me back from achieving my goals, nor should it be a barrier for others.
Fast forward to attending RenewableUK’s brilliant Future Leader event and being inspired to apply to the game-changing RenewableUK Shadow Board, I now know we are not only influencing future leaders, we can reach current ones who don’t think they have that option.
Being part of this incredible and supportive Shadow Board has taught me that there is a place for every woman in the boardroom. We all know diversity on boards ensures more stakeholders are represented, brings broader views and improved variety of experiences, but by excluding mothers from boards, you’re essentially giving women who go on to have children an expiry date. Including us creates a culture change that demonstrates actual commitment to nurturing female talent, rather than lip service.
Meanwhile, my daughter is directly influenced by this wonderful group, she witnesses her mothers voice being respected and encouraged, and she now knows she can achieve anything.” Laura Petrie, Senior Project Manager, Galileo
RenewableUK is one of a small group of organisations currently pioneering the addition of a ‘Shadow Board’ or ‘Future Board’, in what is seen to be a growing trend, with benefits for the organisation, as well as benefiting individuals across the Senior Leadership team, the Board and the Shadow Board through the natural process of reverse-mentoring that is created.
“From the moment I read about the “RenewableUK Shadow Board” I was intrigued. The chance to gain Board level insights and to help shape the agenda of the burgeoning renewable energy sector – what’s the catch? The truth is there isn’t one! Quite simply, RenewableUK have setup something truly pioneering. Being a member of the Shadow Board is a great privilege and has been transformative to my understanding of strategic decision making, group dynamics and providing high quality challenge.
In pioneering the Shadow Board concept, RenewableUK have had a clear focus on diversity. I am hugely grateful to now say I am friends with 10 talented colleagues in the Shadow Board, 6 of whom are inspiring women whose differing skills and passion for renewable energy I admire. The RenewableUK Shadow Board is blazing a trail in showing how powerful women continue to shape one of the most important and fastest growing sectors in industry, and I am delighted to be part of the team, in my role as Vice Chair, alongside them.” Alex Fowler, Head of Offshore Sales Service Extensions/ Aftermarket at Siemens Gamesa, RenewableUK Shadow Board Vice Chair
On the current RenewableUK Shadow Board, there is representation across areas of expertise, broad geographic focus, diversity of background and a range of experiences that encourage healthy discussion and debate both as a Shadow Board group, and when we bring our collective voice to the main Board meetings.
“When I sat down in my first Shadow Board meeting in RenewableUK’s office back in March 2022 I knew this experience was going to be something special. What I didn’t know then was the incredible range of benefits being a member of the Shadow Board would bring. One of the biggest benefits is how much I have learnt. RenewableUK has offered us unique insights into how the organisation is run, the opportunity to lead and support initiatives shaping the future direction of the company, and experience of how boards work, preparing us to take on board level roles in the future.
The people that I’ve met, including the RenewableUK team, members of the Board and my fellow Shadow Board members have taught me so much, from a deeper insight into the industry and the diversity of roles and skills that support it, to leadership skills, as well as learning more about myself and what truly drives me. There have been opportunities to raise my profile through attending conferences, speaking on panels and writing blogs, as well as growing my professional network.
The incredible people that I have met have reinforced my passion for the renewable energy industry and its role in reaching net zero. I know that when my tenure on the Shadow Board ends, I will be left with a wealth of experience and friends for life.” Julia Roope, Global Business Development Manager Offshore Wind, Fugro.
“One of the things I’ve valued most about being a Shadow Board member is the ‘feeling of coming home’ to a peer group of inspiring individuals who share such a passion and drive for the renewables industry and who are all striving to have a positive impact in our fight against climate breakdown. As part of this diverse group, I feel that the small contribution I can make individually to achieving net zero, is amplified and our willingness to debate topics, share views and provide a collective steer back to RenewableUK I believe will strengthen the direction of the renewables industry.” Beccie Drake, Offshore Wind Digital Lead at Arup
Without discussion and challenge, we risk an echo chamber effect of self-confirmation and gratification that the ideas we first arrive on are the best. Through a broader collection of voices, being open to challenge and actively listening, we should arrive at better decisions.
“One of the many benefits that a Shadow Board provides aspiring leaders is the opportunity to have direct engagement or ‘air-time’ with the senior leaders in our industry. Embarking on your personal journey into leadership is incredibly exciting but can be daunting too. It’s therefore really important to be amongst existing leaders, to witness their style and approach, to learn from them and even more so, to be able to constructively and respectfully challenge them. That’s of course how diverse minds grow and how true equity can be achieved.
My personal experience of being on the RenewableUK Shadow Board has been invaluable – all contributions are respected and listened to by the senior Board and I am continuously shaping my own authentic leadership style, whilst being supported by and growing alongside my peers.” Helen K Thomas, Senior Supply Chain Manager at RWE & Future Leader Award Winner 2022
“Since establishing the Shadow Board in December 2019 we have gained a unique conduit to fresh ideas from talented up and coming women and men from diverse backgrounds. The Shadow Board provides insight and analysis from a different perspective, and in return receive valuable Board-level experience. RenewableUK is keen to play a pro-active role in developing the careers of our members, so they can step up to the top table.” Stephen Bull, Executive Vice President Renewables at Aker Solutions and Chair of RenewableUK
It is this collective experience and culture of trust that supports creativity, innovation, focus, and hope for a sustainable and equitable future.
"You can’t be what you can’t see” and the climate emergency is too big to tackle without the full weight of the population on board. International Women’s Day is a great chance to shine a light on the achievements of women and provide role models for the next generation.” Kerry Hayes, RenewableUK Shadow Board Chair and Project Development Manager at Simply Blue Group
Author: Beccie Drake with valuable input, challenge and editing from the RenewableUK Shadow Board! Beccie had the opportunity to join a panel discussion last week hosted by The Energy Institute on Generation 2050: Young and On Boards – how listening to future talent can accelerate business and climate success, as part of International Energy Week. For another perspective on ‘Why we need board diversity to reach net zero’ follow this link: https://knowledge.energyinst.org/new-energy-world/article?id=127555
If you’ve been inspired reading this blog, do check out “WHAT is Black History Month and WHY does it matter?” written by RenewableUK Shadow Board member Rakesh Chand to mark Black History Month in 2022: https://www.blog.renewableuk.com/post/black-history-month-bhm-what-is-it-and-why-does-it-matter