Alula Berhe Kidani
IRENA Reports that Strengthening Women’s Roles in Renewable Energy is Key to Achieving Multiple SDGs
A report released by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) shows that women occupy a larger share of jobs in renewable energy than in the conventional oil and gas business, but the share is far below 50%. Strengthening the role of women in renewable energy through better education and other measures would boost progress towards SDGs on energy, gender equality, health and education, among others.
Titled “Renewable energy: A Gender Perspective,” the report summarizes the findings of a survey among close to 1500 respondents from 144 countries working in the renewable energy sector. The results indicate that women represent 32% of full time employees in the renewable energy sector, compared to 22% in the conventional oil and gas business and 48% of women workers in the global labor force. The results also show that the share of jobs held by women is higher for general administrative jobs (43%), but lower for jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training (31%). The study further identifies barriers preventing women from entering jobs in the renewable energy sector, including cultural and social norms, unequal asset ownership, lack of skills and lack of gender-specific training. Only 40% of men are aware of these barriers compared to 75% of women.
The study also investigates the role of women in the context of access to energy (SDG target 7.1). The authors note that while there is ample evidence that lack of access to energy affects women and children disproportionately, modern energy infrastructure tends to reach women last. This means that integrating a gender perspective into policies and programmes that address the barriers identified, would support addressing many challenges related to energy access, including gender equality (SDG 5), improved access to information and educti0n (SDG 4), and reduced health impacts from indoor pollution (SDG 3).
Based on these survey results and analyses, the report develops recommendations to improve gender diversity in the renewables sector in four areas:
* mainstreaming gender in energy sector frameworks, including integrating women’s experiences, capacities, expertise and preferences in energy policies and programmes, gender audits, and integrating women along the off-grid renewable energy value chain;
* tailoring training and skills development programmes, including raising awareness of career opportunities, adapting curricula , making technical training programmes more versatile, and strengthening mentoring and outreach;
* attracting and retaining talent, including through parental leave and flexible work hours, equal wages, child care support and equal opportunities for professional advancement; and
* challenging cultural and social norms, including by strengthening the visibility of diverse women’s roles in energy, and supporting projects that enable women to become agents of change through their participation in the renewable energy sector.
During the ninth session of the IRENA Assembly, a special event on ‘Gender in the Energy Transformation’ was held to discuss the results of the survey. Participants adopted the ‘IRENA Statement on Gender in Renewable Energy,’ welcoming the study and calling on IRENA members to cooperate in, among other activities: raising awareness of the centrality of gender equality in the energy transformation; sharing experiences and best practices on policies programmes and initiatives; fostering women’s economic empowerment; supporting further analysis and collection of gender-disaggregated data; and strengthening collaboration to overcome barriers to women’s participation in the renewable energy sector.
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