#EachforEqual in the Energy Sector: An interview with GWNET

With International Women’s Day on the 8th March, we’ve been thinking about what this year’s theme, #EachforEqual, means for the energy sector.

“Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue”

This year’s theme spotlights the role of businesses. At REN21 we certainly benefit from the work and leadership of women. 80% of our team are female and we maintain a 50/50 gender balance on all our panels. But outside the Secretariat, what is the actual status of women in the renewable energy sector?

REN21 members GWNET recently released their first study, Women for Sustainable Energy – Strategies to Foster Women’s Talent for Transformational Change, uncovering what’s needed to forward female talent in the sustainable energy sector.

Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles represent just 28% of women in renewables. Source: ‘Women for Sustainable Energy’

 

“There are tangible benefits in a gender-balanced workforce”

The statistics aren’t stellar: GWNET found that the most optimistic estimates say women represent just 22% of the workforce in traditional energy; its only a slightly better at 32% in the renewable energy sector.

There are tangible benefits for companies pursuing a gender-balanced workforce, from increased profitability, to decreased risk and environmental liability. Plus, it’s difficult to think that a sector which thrives on innovation is missing out on diverse, value-driven individuals that can drive change.

REN21 members, GWNET, identify opportunities for female talent in sustainable energy

 

But there is good news. The report states that as a sector requiring diverse skills, there is an important place for those with varied career trajectories and abilities which can be honed outside the ‘boys club’ of traditional energy.

“We need to achieve more inclusive workspaces, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion”

So, what can we do to promote change in our sector? We spoke to Davina Ngei, Communications Manager at GWNET, about how to attract and retain diverse talent in renewables.

Firstly, she underlined the need for an equitable hiring process: “Organisations must work to establish quotas and use neutral language in job advertisements. Standardised recruitment strategies with diverse selection panels will level the playing field for all applicants.”

In the workplace, flexibility will allow employees to align professional and family duties. “Parental or carer leave must be provided, and ‘return to work’ programmes for those returning from extended absences.”

Reviews and promotions must be as bias-free as possible

To allow women to progress in an organisation, performance reviews and promotions must be as bias-free as possible, leading to more women in decision-making roles. Alongside this, mentoring programs can support female staff.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Ngei highlights the importance of “walking the talk” on zero tolerance to sexual harassment; “We need strategies to achieve more inclusive workspaces for all employees, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion”.

Our sector is still developing, meaning best practices can be implemented. This requires us, now, to act on #EachforEqual, and secure renewable energy as a leader in forwarding female change-makers.

Background

REN21 is the only global renewable energy community of actors from science, governments, NGOs and industry. We provide up-to-date and peer-reviewed facts, figures and analysis of global developments in technology, policies and markets. Our goal: enable decision-makers to make the transition to renewable energy happen – now.