Nathyeli Yethzi Acuna Castillo
Closing gaps in women’s employment in the energy sector
Background, challenges and context
Energy issues affect women and men differently, with each having different roles and responsibilities in their households, markets, and communities. The World Bank Group works to empower men and women as users of energy and providers of energy services by integrating gender considerations into energy operations, knowledge development, and technical assistance.
Under its business plan for FY17-20, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) through its Gender and Energy programme has focused on closing gender gaps across its business lines and grants. ESMAP has approved six Regional Gender and Energy programmes (across all its operating areas), and one of the trends to emerge was a need for a focus on women in the energy workforce and working with utilities to improve gender equity and policies within their organisations. This led to EEG co-funding an ESMAP project on closing gaps in women’s employment in the energy sector, to be delivered across Africa and South Asia.
ESMAP has been supporting work on gender in the Africa energy portfolio since 2010 – starting with six countries and transitioning to more systematic support across the full portfolio of lending within the region. Areas of priority include:
Enhancing women's employment in utilities, including in technical and STEM positions
Increasing productive uses of energy by female farmers and businesses
Fostering female entrepreneurship in off-grid markets and increasing access to financial services and products
Improving energy education/literacy and mobilisation of women's groups in energy sector engagement
Enhancing GBV (gender-based violence) response and mitigation in energy sector institutions (key focus sexual harassment policies linked to women's employment)
Meanwhile, the South Asia Gender and Energy (SAGE) facility was recently approved and is being jointly led by energy and social development specialists in the World Bank. A South Asia Women in Power Sector Professional Network (WePOWER) has been developed to support women’s advancement in the power sector and to promote gender diversity within utilities and energy projects. It is a regional platform for networking, recruitment, information exchange, training, and mentorship opportunities, with a focus on academic partnerships and women in STEM together with various partners across the region.
Research overview and objectives
Task one of the project is focused on establishing baselines and stakeholder engagement, including data collection, diagnosing barriers, and engaging relevant counterparts e.g. policy makers, private/government utilities, institutions, NGOs, schools, and universities. Task two involves piloting interventions in Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya, and India.
The team will map employment gaps in the sector, across different levels and educational backgrounds, and collate actions (e.g. women-friendly facilities, school to work transition programmes, role models and professional networks, quotas and affirmative action interventions, and returnships) and barriers (e.g. national policies and utility-level HR policies and recruitment and promotion practices).
The team will also develop stakeholder groups (including a Technical Working Group) and will conduct partner mapping to establish areas of expertise and potential contribution/collaboration points.
A toolkit will be developed to help project teams address women’s employment in the energy sector, including lessons learned and good practice (drawing on, for example, how women’s employment issues have been advanced in the energy sector in Ethiopia and how applicable best practices from the private sector are for the public sector) and knowledge exchange through webinars and training.
In Ethiopia, mapping of gender gaps has already led to actions across the energy sector portfolio, including a focus on scholarships and internship programmes, plus tracking women’s employment in STEM. In Zambia, opportunities to close key gender gaps are being identified, and ways to increase women’s representation in the energy sector through affirmative action; internship, mentorship, and development opportunities; and work environment actions are being assessed. A scholarship and stipend programme is being established in Kenya for various engineering degrees, and includes a focus on the training environment (coaching and investigating possible bias/norms in training institutes).
In the South Asia region, there is a focused initiative to work with utilities and power sector organisations to institutionalise gender data collection. It is being piloted in Pakistan in the form of a detailed HR questionnaire on gender policy and facilities, before being rolled out in other countries in South Asia. In addition, SAGE is supporting EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited) in India to improve its HR practices and policies to target and recruit more women.
Ethiopia Electric Utility (EEU)
Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC)
Zambia’s Ministry of Energy
Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL)