GWNET officially launched the study on “Women for Sustainable Energy: Strategies to Foster Women’s Talent for Transformational Change,” through a well-attended webinar held on December 17th, 2019 led by GWNET President, Dr Irene Giner-Reichl.
The study was commissioned to answer the question ‘What can we do to increase women’s employment in the sustainable energy sector?’ and examines:
- how well women are currently integrated into the corporate sustainable energy sector;
- which obstacles women encounter;
- and what recommendations – building on existing experiences and emerging best-practice – can be put forward to promote women’s participation on par with men’s in sustainable energy.
Women’s Current Participation in the Sustainable Energy Sector Workforce
Energy transitions are underway globally in a variety of shapes and forms, from large corporatised businesses to small community ventures. While the labour force in the sustainable energy sector is projected to grow significantly, achieving gender balance will need significant effort from all stakeholders.
Challenges & Opportunities for Women’s Engagement in the Sustainable Energy Sector Workforce
Women’s inclusion is not only the right thing to do (from a human rights perspective), it is also smart and profitable (from a business perspective). So why then are women still significantly underrepresented and under-valued across all sectors, especially in STEM fields and in more senior positions?
The largest identified challenge is a general culture of male dominance in leadership positions, which displays itself as restrictive gender roles and social norms as well as an unconscious bias towards valuing men over women as leaders.
However, no sector can afford to cling to these outdated beliefs and practices any longer. A global shortage of skilled labour coupled with the breadth and dynamic landscape of the sustainable energy sector, means that businesses need to compete for the best talent, and that talent can be found in people of all genders.
Based on industry interviews and literature review, a rich and detailed set of strategies is laid out – underpinned by selected good practice examples – with a view to inspire women’s equal inclusion in the sustainable energy sector. These strategies include:
- promoting girls who have a demonstrable aptitude for STEM disciplines;
- promoting the sustainable energy sector as a workplace of choice for women and men with families;
- putting in place quotas for leadership roles to break unconscious biases and highlight women’s leadership;
- removing biases in recruitment, performance reviews; equal pay and promotions;
- equitable parental and carer leave for people of all genders;
- childcare for parents;
- return to work programmes and flexible work models for women and men;
- gender-conscious mentoring for women and men, and
- a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and discrimination.
The global energy transition provides a unique opportunity not just to transition our energy supply and delivery systems, but also to transition to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
The sustainable energy sector could well open up avenues towards more inclusive business practices, to create a highly profitable and equitable industry equipped to meet the world’s future energy needs in an equitable, inclusive and sustainable way.
To achieve this, commitments of time, resources and personnel are needed from boards and organisation leaders, in addition to coalitions between governments, industry, women’s associations/networks and INGOs.
We call on all stakeholders across the sustainable energy sector to use this study as a guide to bring about transformative change in the sustainable energy workforce.