Women in Renewable Energy: A Long Road Ahead

11 January 2019

Women account for half of the global employment potential. Yet, their talents and personal insights remain under-utilized in the Renewable Energy sector. In fact, there’s a significant gender gap in this sector when it comes to hiring women. Many energy companies simply refuse to recognize women as anything more than passive energy users.

If this sounds like your company, then it’s missing out on the opportunity of a competitive advantage in the Energy industry. For example, evidence from all sectors of the industry, suggests that incorporating more women into the Renewable Energy workforce will encourage a greater appreciation for clean energy, resulting in better overall environmental benefits.

Encouraging more women to enter the Energy workforce, also produces measurable business benefits. This can strengthen development outcomes, improve return on investment, increase productivity and profitability, along with driving business growth. These benefits could separate your company from its rivals, surviving and remaining to grow over time.

Renewable energy sector

Gender Gap Existing in Energy

The gender imbalance that exists in the Energy industry, does go beyond the Renewable Energy sector. It exists throughout the Energy industry, and at all levels. For example, a recent study completed by the Environment and Gender Index, estimates that “women occupy only 4 percent of the World Energy Council (WEC) positions and 18 percent of the WEC Secretary positions.”

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum states that the industry is among the top business sectors in which the least number of women can be found. According to a Global Energy Talent Index report, surveying 20,000 workers from all sectors of the industry, they account for only 10% of the global energy workforce.

In addition to Renewable Energy, another sector in which an obvious gender gap is easy to recognize is Oil and Gas—especially when it comes to wages. This sector has a “controlled pay gap” (men and women working similar jobs) of -7.4% for women. According to the PayScale State of the Gender Gap 2018 report, this is the highest gap found in any industry.

Renewable energy sector

Female Barriers Aren’t New

In Renewable Energy sector, this gender gap mainly exists because of the barriers associated with hiring women that already exist on a structural and individual level. These same barriers affect the hiring of women in all areas of the Energy industry—from executive boards to field positions. They have been a problem for years and are nothing new.

Barriers include:

  • Less access to decision making spaces in Energy
  • Lack of recruitment by Energy companies
  • Discrimination by men in the workplace
  • Environments unsupportive of work, life, family balance
  • Women’s roles as primary caregivers in many societies
  • Limited access to support systems, such as daycare and flexible hours
  • Not encouraged by society to overcome these cultural barriers.
  • Access to and control over critical assets and resources, including economic opportunities

Given recent developments, the Energy industry cannot afford to let these barriers prevent them from recruiting and hiring skilled female workers on every level. For example, the recent Oil & Gas downturn, saw about 450,000 experienced, highly skilled workers leaving the industry. Hiring women trained to replace them is a skills gap solution staring Energy in the face.

Empowering Women Boosts Bottom Line

Recent studies show that gender equality and female empowerment boost the bottom line. A 10-year study on the subject found that organizations with three or more women in senior management positions score higher in organizational effectiveness. McKinsey & Company, is a global management consulting firm, that implemented the study.

This study also found that closing the gender gap has a significant economic impact when performed correctly. For example, if all countries were able to match this level of progress, balancing the number of women in their national workforce in the fastest way possible. This could add as much as $12 trillion to annual GDP growth in 2025.

According to this study, women in top management positions also boost corporate growth. Following an in-depth analysis of 300 companies worldwide, the study found “a difference in return of 47 percent between the companies with the most women on their executive committees and those with none, and a 55 percent difference in operating results.”

Renewable energy sector

Closing the Gap with Best Practices

Companies in Renewable Energy sector have made some progress in closing the gender gap with the help of outside organizations. For example, trade body RenewableUK, recognized 30 exceptional women in the Global Wind Energy sector in 2017. These 30 women were all high-ranking executives.  This trade body also formed a database of female Renewable Energy experts for speaking engagements.

More and more government agencies continue to create programs designed to encourage more women to work in the Energy industry. Meanwhile, progressive companies in the industry are introducing the most effective practices to encourage the integration of female workers into their organizations. Below are some of the best practices your company can use to close the gender gap:

  • Establish a level of corporate commitment to gender equality
  • Conduct outreach to educational institutions for female job candidates
  • Implement candidate recruitment activities for women candidates
  • Analyze internship program(s) to set a balance between male and female interns as an expectation
  • Revise internal and external communication materials to contain gender equitable language and photos
  • Support government efforts to influence female economic empowerment opportunities within their supply chains
  • Collect sex-disaggregated data at the company level and use the data to regularly monitor progress for gender equity interventions.
  • Include the proportion of female employees in the company overall, female employees in the company overall, in the annual report. This includes senior executives and board members.
  • Adopt a pay equity policy with methods of analyzing and redressing pay differences
  • Create a sexual harassment/workplace violence policy

These are just some of the best practices companies use to close the gender gap throughout their organizations. They appeared in a brief put forth by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—Increasing Women’s Participation in the Power Sector through Human Resources Interventions: A Best Practices Framework.

This brief is a product of RTI International, a nonprofit institute, for USAID. It includes a considerable amount of practical information on engendering women in the Power industry, including a best practices framework and other helpful resources.

Women in Renewable Energy Sector: The Long Road Ahead

Solving this gender gap in the Renewable Energy sector, still remains a critical business issue—for many companies in the industry. In addition to addressing critical political and cultural issues, gender equality results in better performance, innovation, and decision making. It is also the cause of more effective clean energy initiatives, increasing greater return on investment, and expands emission reduction opportunities.

Despite this continuing level of progress, there’s still a long road ahead for women. This is one that more and more companies need to travel. As RenewableUK’s Emma Pinchbeck recently said: “Promoting diversity is a priority for our sector. We’re competing against other industries to secure the best talent from the greatest variety of backgrounds. The wider we cast our net, the more innovative and successful we’ll be in the future.”

Renewable energy sector


Jenny Snook
Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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