Our Chair on 2021 International Women's Day

Embracing women in leadership by challenging gender bias in the boardroom



This year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) is focused on women in leadership and challenging gender bias and inequality in order to achieve greater parity in the workplace. To achieve this, companies need to establish more opportunities for women to shine and undertake open and honest conversations on promoting women to leadership positions. And men need to be included in these conversations.


Those with the power to appoint and promote must think more openly – beyond their own perspectives. Instead of seeing a drilling engineer as a “man’s job”, they must challenge themselves to think beyond that and consider women for the role. By creating platforms to showcase women’s skill sets we can assist in this process.



In the top 80 UK energy companies, only 21% of all Board seats and 13% of executive board roles are held by women. This is not good enough. We all must take responsibility;  not only of our own futures but for the futures of other’s to generate a better future for all of us. How do we facilitate this change?


Don't run from responsibility

Know what you want, and be persistent in chasing it. Often in life as in work you need to take a risk and learn more about what the world can bring. Experience cannot be measured and it can take a leap of faith to try different things and discover new knowledge, but it will pay off in the long run. It can be hard at first, but you must take on additional responsibility when the chance arises.

 A career can be broken down into small steps, each a little higher than the last. By taking these steps one at a time, you will grow in confidence; and those around you will begin to trust in you and your capabilities. Know that you can do it.


Always make sure you’re fairly valued

In the year to April 2020 the gender pay gap still measured at 15.5%. When do we say enough is enough? If you do not feel you are fairly valued for your work, don’t be afraid to do something about it. Don't keep your head down and hope it gets better. As a manager for a large part of my career, I know that men are far more comfortable demanding more money than women.

Take action by talking with,   your peers and those more senior than you; make sure you have a voice and drive the conversation forward to ensure gender equality is a priority for your company.  Know that you deserve to be where you are, and do not be shy about asking for the next step.


Develop mentees and nurture connections

The possibilities of having a large and diverse professional network are endless. The principle is simple. The more people you meet, the more people will remember who you are and what you do. When you have an opportunity, always foster professional relationships, some will be organic, and some are more strategic. When you can help others be sure to pay it forward and remember, everyone needs a helping hand at some point.

Take advantage of the access you have to those senior to you. When you get an opportunity, be sure to connect and network with them. Find out how you can be of value to them, what value they can give you.

Also remember to help lead the path for women to come. By doing this it creates a nurturing environment that supports promotion and encourages female empowerment.


Do the right thing

Sometimes doing the right thing is not easy, but the positive outcomes of following your ethics outweigh the consequences of doing something you don’t believe in. By bringing this view into the corporate boardroom it will ripple into both your journey and the journey of others within the company.

When faced with a difficult situation that can challenge your moral compass, make sure you seek honest advice and feedback to ensure a straightforward and fair outcome.


Learn to collaborate

Social promises and ratings are all well and good to address issues of gender equality, but at the end of the day people prefer to do business with people they like. This may seem obvious at first, but it’s easy to overlook.

Offering a friendly word or gesture will help you build connections in your industry and will pay dividends for years to come. Seize responsibility early and foster trust in both your abilities and work ethic with those around you. Offering guidance is always appreciated and gives clear leadership on how to progress.

Learning to accept our mistakes and grow is part of developing yourself inside and outside of work. And even when striving for equality in the workplace, ensure that you do not lose your femininity in order to prosper.



And lastly, as in work as in life, don’t forget to be curious, be brave, be friendly and have humour, be persistent, be humble and be balanced! In order to deliver equality and a fair balance of women in leadership, we need not wait to see what others do but build it for ourselves.


Karen Simon,

Independent Non-Executive Chair, Energean Plc