Women’s participation in the energy sector, including as technicians and decision-makers, remains low. The World Economic Forum jobs report (2016) calculates that women make up only 15% of the energy labor force. Recent IUCN Environment and Gender Information (EGI) data reveals that women hold ten percent of top Energy Ministry positions. The reasons for women’s low participation in the sector relate to social stereotyping and the effect this has in early education stages, where girls are less likely to be encouraged to engage in activities that would later on increase their options for joining science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Moreover, once women join the labor force, they face a series of challenges to remain in the sector and later on rise to leadership positions. These challenges include the difficulty of maneuvering in a male-dominated sector, the lack of female role models and mentors, and labor conditions (such as long working days and requirement of high number of site visit to distant locations) which are not conducive or adaptable to women’s traditional role as caregivers at household level.
Evidence reveals that gender diversity in the workforce can drive innovation, open new pathways for technology deployment and have a positive effect on business performance and investment. As science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education serves as a pathway to energy careers, it is important to encourage girls to excel in these fields. With job creation on the raise, particularly in the renewable energy sector, it is fundamental to understand both the challenges and opportunities girls and young women face to embrace STEM subjects and join the energy sector if one is to design and implement strategies that will encourage a larger number of women to join and remain in the renewable energy ranks.
The webinar was moderated by Ana Rojas, IUCN, and included the following presentations:
- Increasing girls’ and young women’s interest in STEM and the energy sector with Makgola Makololo, Department of Public Enterprise, South Africa
- Building a diverse future: increasing girls’ interest in STEM with Sandra Tererai, Taungana, South Africa
- Harnessing talent: increasing women’s participation in the energy sector with AnneMarie Horowitz, Department of Energy, United States of America
The Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO)* initiative is a five-year program launched by USAID and IUCN in 2014. GECCO’s overall goal is to leverage advancements in women’s empowerment and gender equality through, and for, the benefit of climate change and development outcomes. Through its series of webinars, GECCO aims at increasing knowledge and sensitization of key stakeholders in the energy and mitigation sectors as a means to advance women’s empowerment.
*The former Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO) initiative is now part of a broader program, Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT), which aims to improve development outcomes by strengthening environmental programing through gender integration and achieving gender equality outcomes.