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25 February 2019
What can we do to increase women’s employment in the renewable energy sector?
The lack of diversity in renewable energy is slowing down progress and innovation across the sector. The causes of women’s underrepresentation in this booming industry are widely recognised, and include lack of career development opportunities and implicit gender biases.
Gender equity requires a cross-sector strategy to successfully include women in the renewable energy workforce. A new report by the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET), a co-organizer of Women in Wind, identifies key strategies for gender inclusion in the renewable energy industry, starting with a clear definition of women empowerment:
Empowerment = Advancement + Transformation
Empowering women means facilitating professional advancement while promoting system transformation. In order to advance women’s careers, it is necessary to improve access to employment and financial resources, to invest in women’s human and social capital through education, skills development and the creation of valuable professional networks.
Establishing and implementing quotas to make women visible in leadership roles creates role models that portray different social, cultural, ethnic or gender traits. If the saying “you can’t be what you can’t see” holds true for many professionals, the benefits of promoting women in senior decision-making roles based on quotas can inspire other women to challenge gendered career paths. These efforts should be matched with significant investment in training and scholarships to encourage more women to pursue STEM disciplines at all levels of education, and providing support via mentorship, knowledge-sharing and skills development.
However, economic advancement alone is only part of the answer. Empowering women requires a wider system transformation to tackle gender stereotypes and cultural biases that obstruct women’s entrance, job retention and career advancement in the renewable energy workforce.
The report highlights the importance of designing inclusive recruitment practices to facilitate women’s entrance in this sector, such as making it a common practice to write job descriptions in a gender-neutral language. Such small steps can greatly contribute towards creating flexible and inclusive work environments that should account for many women’s dual role as professionals and care givers. Safety on the workplace is also paramount. Crucially, employers should enforce zero-tolerance policies on sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.
The use of a baseline and good monitoring and indicators for gender equality increases transparency and accountability, and this type of evaluation should be undertaken as regularly as other financial and performance evaluations. Existing resources and toolkits are already in place in the energy sector, and although there is no one-size-fits-all strategy these constitute a good starting point for businesses, regulators and organisations across the industry.
Lastly, the report highlights the importance of supporting coalitions that advocate for greater gender inclusion. These range from international women’s networks and associations, to supporting champions of any gender identity who stand up for gender equality and employee-led diversity and inclusion strategies on the workplace.
The energy transition would scale up more rapidly if the industry could draw on all available talent – namely, by actively working towards including women and minorities in the workforce. The only way forward is to develop joint efforts to shape inclusive policies and to invest in human resources developments across all sectors.
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