In this short article, I present the highlights from three different reports about gender equity and representation in renewable energy sectors.
It has been widely reported that women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector (EU Publications Office). However, many policymakers, educators and oncoming scientists are determined to change that discrepancy. 2019 was a good year to talk about gender equity in STEM fields in general, and in renewables, specifically. In this short article, I present the highlights from three different reports about gender equity and representation in renewable energy sectors.
Before moving on to the reports, however, it is crucial to clarify the terms equity and equality that we frequently hear when the topic is diversity, representation – or therefore lack of it. International Labour Office defines gender equity as “fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different, but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities” (ILO, 2000).
Mancini emphasizes its difference from gender equality as “the effective equality between men and women, that entails the concept that all human beings, both men and women, are free to develop their abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypical views, rigid gender roles, and prejudices” (106). So, gender equity is to acknowledge that everyone has a different “starting point” or opportunities. These people should be treated in a way to close the gap among peers; whereas, gender equality means an individual’s “rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female” (ILO, 2000).
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report prepared by Gender Task Group during 8-12 May 2019 sessions. Their report points out that “women continue to face multiple barriers and discriminations along their career path, although the importance of having gender diversity within the research community has been documented. Gender often intersects with other factors that influence participation, including race, ethnicity, language, disability, age, or nationality” (p.1). Even though gender equity is discussed more commonly now, the action to achieve this should be taken faster.
Moreover, it is also evident that the lack of gender equity brings about, or corresponds with, many types of discrimination from ableism to ageism and racism – only to name a few. In the report, the panel has decided to develop their internal workings by mainstreaming gender balance related issues, encouragement, empowerment and monitoring the participation of authors, researchers, and other contributors. The means they plan to achieve these are dwelled on in more detail in the report.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has also published a report titled “Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective” in 2019. In this extensive report, barriers of entry and advancement for women in the renewable energy sector are determined by surveys as below:
The general director of IRENA, Adnan Amin, summarizes women’s position in global energy transformation as “essential to shaping positive social and economic development outcomes. Women provide valuable perspectives on key decisions, from investment priorities to project design. The renewable energy industry needs to engage and retain more women – and promote them – to fill its growing needs for skills. Their leadership and contributions will be crucial to ensuring that the energy systems of the future address the needs of modern societies and leave no one behind” (3).
However, when these statistics are considered, there is still much to do: first, girls’ education in STEM fields must be encouraged. Most importantly, the power structures, cultural norms and gender roles that hinder girls from getting into STEM in the first place should be eliminated.
Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET) has published its own report. First, it provides a gender study context such as unconscious bias, notions of leadership to establish some concepts around gender perception in the renewable energy sector. Then they present the results of meticulous and detailed interviews with some key themes that have emerged from the interviews.
Some of the conclusions suggest that even though a generational change is happening, traditional gender roles still prevail. Masculine dominance in the workforce is visible, and even if women are in ‘higher positions’, there are still extra expectations from them compared to their male colleagues in same or similar positions. Furthermore, it is emphasized that a flexible and supportive working environment which enables individuals must be created for all. These ideas should not remain in reports and promises, but they should be visible in practice and implementations.
Women’s indispensable contribution to various steps in the transition to renewables should be recognized, acknowledged, and encouraged further via gender equity. Reading these reports might give you invaluable insights about many ingrained ideas about women in the renewable energy sector and overall workforce.
Note: For this article, gender refers to men and women. I hope statistics and reports will provide both brevity and inclusive language in that regard in the near future. This statement reflects my personal opinion.
GWNET (2019). Women for Sustainable Energy: Strategies to Foster Women’s Talent for Transformational Change
International Labour Office (2000). ABC of women worker’s rights and gender equality (p. 48). Geneva: ILO.
IPCC (2019). Report from The IPCC Task Group on Gender. Prepared by the Task Group on Gender. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 42 pp.
IRENA (2019). Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective. IRENA, Abu Dhabi.
Mencarini, L. (2014). Gender Equity. In: Michalos A.C.(eds) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht.
Union, Publications Office of the European (2013-03-25). She figures 2012: gender in research and innovation: statistics and indicators.op.europa.eu. doi:10.2777/38520.ISBN 9789279276422. Retrieved: 15.06.2020