Group photo of women looking into the camera

Munich/Germany, 12 – 16 June 2023

One of the key recommendations to support women engaged in sustainable energy, according to the 2020 GWNET report Strategies to Foster Women’s Talent for Transformational Change, is ‘promoting networking face-to-face and electronically among women in sustainable energy and support organisations that facilitate such networking.’

Networking helps build supportive personal and professional connections, opens opportunities for new employment, and creates a platform to share challenges, ideas, advice, and information. This is critical if we want to achieve gender equality in the energy transition, as well as greater presence and visibility of women in male-dominated spaces such as STEM roles and senior management.

Over the last few years, GWNET in collaboration with partners has organised numerous international study tours, which provide a group of selected mentorship participants with access to in-person networking, while also creating a pathway for them to gain insights into the latest energy transition topics and trends as well as engagement with international energy leaders.

In June of this year, GWNET in partnership with GIZ and the German Energy Agency (dena), with support from adelphi and Guidehouse and on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Action (BMWK), hosted a three-day study tour in Munich, Germany under the banner ‘Energising Women to Advance the Energy Transition.’

The study tour brought together participants from two mentorship programmes and 17 countries, namely Algeria, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uruguay, Vietnam, Türkiye, and Ukraine. With a multi-disciplinary group with expertise ranging from engineering and policy to research and law, the study tour offered an exceptional cross-cultural and holistic learning experience with the goal of spurring the advancement of our participants in the sector.

Day 1: Female Empowerment Workshop

The study tour kicked off on June 13th with an interactive Female Empowerment workshop led by Maren Wölfl.

As this was the first event of the study tour, the workshop posed an amazing opportunity for our participants to get to know one another, form support networks, embrace their strengths and flaws and share insights on how to overcome challenges and achieve professional goals.

“One of the main challenges, is that we often come across unequal opportunities compared to men and that it holds us back from advancing in our careers. Additionally, we see that pregnancy is sometimes seen as a disadvantage rather than a normal part of life, which affects how others perceive our abilities in the workplace. In male dominated environments we sometimes feel left out and our natural traits such as being gentle and nurturing are sometimes seen as a weakness. In addition to that, balancing our responsibilities becomes difficult as we now must juggle between multiple tasks. Another common challenge is that there are lower expectations for women even when we have more experience and skills than our male counterparts, they already think that we will not do a great job. This bias is very frustrating as it puts a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and avoid making any mistakes in the workplace. This leads to us working overtime and longer hours.”

Saarty Mikka, Namibia

Rather than define specific characteristics of a good leader and mould participants to meet these traits, workshop leader, Maren, supported participants to embrace the unique aspects of their personalities and use this to lead with assurance, strength, power, self-confidence, and authenticity. Maren shared that the goal of the workshop was to “empower women to walk their path with less self-doubt…be aware of their strengths and competencies, speak up and be true to themselves.”

In this way, participants were given the tools to break free from unhelpful patterns and gain confidence in leading in a unique manner that benefits them, their team, and the energy transition at large.

“I have very much benefitted from this workshop. Maren’s methodology and the subjects discussed were very interesting. She provided us with tools on how to use and maintain energy as a woman, use our advantages, competencies and also overcome challenges. I feel very strong after this workshop as I could express my competencies to my colleagues during the workshop and felt that we were on the same wave length.”

Radia Lasledj, Algeria

“The workshop was a great opportunity to meet women like me. Maren encouraged us to embrace our feelings and shared with us tools to navigate as women in our professional career.”

Ruveyda Gülmisal Akkale çelebi, Türkiye

“What came to my mind about the female leadership workshop was how to deal with your team and how to be a leader. But to my present surprise it was about dealing with your inner self, and once you fix that, being a leader just comes naturally.”

Mvumikazi Kanyisa Vimbani, South Africa

“I think that the workshop gave us space to ask ourselves questions that we don’t get to ask very often…Realising our strengths and weaknesses helps us to reach our full potential in a personal and professional way.”

Naomi Monserrat Aguirre Rivera, Mexico

“What a fabulous workshop. I have a strong feeling that we are not alone and that we should be confident, happy and trust ourselves.”

Meng Cui, China

 “The highlight of the workshop was meeting interesting women from all over the world, of all ages and all backgrounds. I think it is really about the people that you meet…when you break down the differences and see the similarities and help each other out, you create this network from all over the world.”

Aya Ephrati, Israel

“I think that a successful women should be conscious about what happens around her and should know how to avoid negative vibes of other people. She should keep trusting in herself and concentrating on what she wants to realize.”

Sirine Jamoussi, Tunisia

Day 2: Smarter-E Conference

Charged with the in-depth conversations at the workshop, participants were energised for the second day of the study tour, which included a visit to the Smarter-E conference, which brings together four exhibitions: Intersolar Europe, ees Europe, Power2Drive Europe and EM-Power Europe.

During the course of the day, our mentees had the chance to explore hundreds of exhibitions from solar PV, energy storage, and e-mobility to hybrid energy management, energy communities, and battery recycling.

Our group was welcomed by CEO at Renewables Academy (RENAC), Berthold Breid, before taking part in a guided tour on solar PV and grid integration of solar, visiting Think Ahead, Cleanwatts, SMARTFOX GmbH, smartEn Smart Energy Europe, SolarPower Europe, BELECTRIC GmbH, GP JOULE, ABO Wind, and Fronius International.

We wrapped up the day with an insightful presentation on ‘Global Solar Development’ by the Research & Innovation Manager at SolarPower Europe, Thomas Garabetian, who gave an overview of trends in solar energy and delved into prospects for emerging markets.

The evening was spent at a networking dinner attended by our partners, GIZ Media Fellows, and a Ukrainian women in energy delegation, giving participants more opportunities to expand their professional connections and learn from the work of other women in the sector.

“Since once of my research topics is solar power generation prediction through AI or statistical modelling, it was quite fascinating to see how many companies are working on this. This was valuable as because of COVID, it’s been a long time since I had an opportunity like this. By participating in this conference my future career seems to be clear.”

Hye Won Cho, Korea

 “What I took away is that there is still a big need for financing green initiatives at different scales. I believe that the market is still very conservative and doesn’t take risks on projects that have a great environment and social impact. We are still far from the goal and time is running out.”

Ruth Patricia Rain Céspedes, Chile

“When visiting the fair we can see how technology evolves rapidly and how integration of renewables into the grid improves annually. On the other hand, the problems of the just energy transition continue to be a challenge and as women we have an important role in this. We must trust in our ability to be able to face the challenges and leave our mark in the process. We are women from different cultures and the problems are almost the same.”

Laura Estrella, Uruguay

“From the discussions at the conference, I can say that changing the structure of energy systems requires massive investments sustained over many years. The question is how to finance the measures needed to achieve global net zero carbon emissions. Moreover, the role of women in this process is very important.”

Luyen Vu Thi, Vietnam

“The guided tour was striking to me and gave us opportunities to exchange and network with different companies. It was exhilarating to take part in all of this with a group comprised of women.”

Ruhan Cemre Uçar, Türkiye

“I visited a lot of booths and met a lot of startups that I wasn’t familiar with. It was a great opportunity for networking and potentially setting up partnerships.”

Daria Golan, Israel

“There is nothing like this conference in Ukraine. The highlight was understanding the innovations for moving forward faster, greener, smarter and more renewable.”

Yuliia Solomakha, Ukraine

“I got good knowledge on the different energy solutions. I learned a lot about energy trading, thermal pumps, and other interesting technologies.”

Marta Melnyk, Ukraine

Day 3: Women Energize Women Conference

The last day of the study tour was spent at the invigorating Women Energize Women Conference which was held as a side event of Smarter-E. The theme for this year’s Conference was “Financing the Energy Transition & Investing in Women,” with a strong identification of the need for more local investment and more investment in women-led businesses.

The conference was an amazing opportunity for our mentees to connect with women leaders from around the world, as well as take part in discussions on current trends in energy investments, political frameworks to drive investment and the necessity of investing in education, training, and mentorship. GWNET alum, Kathlen Schneider spoke on a panel that looked at the role of mentorship in the professional development of women, highlighting her own experiences as a mentee in 2019 while also sharing her achievements since then, including co-founding MESOL, a women’s network in Brazil for the solar sector.

There were also interactive workshops on female entrepreneurship and branding, where our participants received practical advice for professional development and standing out in a competitive working environment.

“This experience has been transformative and unique. As I talked to the other participants, I found my group…I saw that we share the same barriers, and this creates support between us. Today’s branding workshop has helped me break a fear inside of me. To be here and to take this challenge, it shows me that I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to be confident.”

Vitória Elisa da Silva, Brazil

We wrapped up the Conference and the study tour with a reception and dinner, solidifying the bonds and knowledge garnered by participants, and cementing our belief that activities such as these are critical for professional development.

“I am studying energy law and I am a mother of two kids. I am an economist, a lawyer, and an energy specialist. When I saw this programme, it stated that it wanted to boost women’s roles in managerial positions. This stood out to me because for a long time I was contributing to the energy regulations in my country, but when it came time to take the next step in my career, I felt stuck. Being the first person in my family to graduate from university and the first woman to work, I found myself alone during this pivotal moment. But this programme shows me that I am not alone, there are lots of amazing women around ready to share their experiences.“

Sultan Turut Balioglu

“Today has played on similar themes that we’ve been exposed to over the week, which is the importance of representation of women leaders in the energy sector. This is also an area of particular importance and interest to me (around financing the energy transition), because I do not feel the experience in the Global South or Lower Middle Income Countries is similar to other countries in the West. So it’s not just a problem of representation of women but also access to resources and overcoming structural barriers to make it possible for them to be involved in this debate of representation. How do you create enabling infrastructure across different countries to make sure that gender is not an afterthought, but it is designed at the inception of programmes?”

Tanya Kak, India

 “In the world of business I have always believed in the importance of rationality, practicality, and economic viability. However today I had the opportunity to listen to inspiring women, stories and insights in the energy industry, and I have come to realise the power of setting goals instead of solely focusing on head scratching challenges caused by renewable energy. I want to dive deep into understanding what is truly needed to make renewable energy viable and sustainable and take action alongside likeminded women.”

Mami Watanabe, Japan

“Mentoring and networking genuinely help to close the gap between talking and doing. Women have a holistic vision of solving problems. We are more compassionate and less competitive, but in the wrong environment this is not understood. The energy transition is global not local and if we all cooperate, we can actually do.”

Shiri Dror Kihan, Israel

“I’m happy that from the very beginning of the programme we easily matched with my mentor, Rosa. She is a very interesting and positive woman. The main goal which we set up during the first meeting was prioritizing the approaches, ways, and direction of my personal and professional development. And thanks to this meeting and the workshop we had about women’s leadership, I clearly understand that the main criteria of prioritizing is to see how my activities and ways of development allow me to positively influence changes around me: in my work, community, family and so on. I am especially glad that I had the opportunity to meet Rosa directly at the conference Women energize Women, since she came to participate in it as well.”

Nataliia Revutska, Ukraine

We are energised after spending a week with such a dynamic group of women, eager to make positive and lasting change in the energy transition. The study tour and the mentoring programmes are just the beginning of what we see as a new journey enriched by the connections formed through the week and the lessons learned along the way. We are extremely excited about what our participants will do next.

  1. Faustina Boakye 1 year ago

    It’s strange no-one from West Africa was involved in the study tour. I wonder the what the selection criteria was, leaving a whole area of the global south out of this very important capacity building.

  2. Dineo 12 months ago

    Great initiative! How do I get involved?

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