Women in Energy: Creating further opportunities in a changing environment

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A session and lunch sponsored by bp South Africa at African Energy Week 2022 explored how Africa can boost women’s participation in the energy sector and highlighted the benefits of ensuring gender diversity across the male-dominated industry.

Despite accounting for 50% of the African population, women continue to be underrepresented across the continent’s energy market, resulting in the sector’s underdevelopment. A panel discussion held at African Energy Week (AEW) 2022 explored how Africa can create opportunities for women across the energy landscape as the energy transition intensifies.

Moderated by Yolanda Mabuto, Managing Director for Project Development at Genesis Energy South Africa, the discussion included Taelo Mojapelo, CEO of bp for Southern Africa; Isabel Miranda, Director for Sustainability and Social Performance at Ipieca; Gale Adams, Vice President Communication and External Affairs at EnerGeo Alliance (formerly IAGC); Monika Griefahn, Speaker at eFuel Alliance. Speakers explored the measures being adopted across Africa to accelerate female participation in the male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) environment, including the energy sector.

The panel highlighted that increased women’s participation in energy regulation, technology development, energy finance, and workforce operations is critical for Africa to achieve a just energy transition and to maximize the exploitation of its energy resources to address energy access, security, and affordability issues.

While limited participation of females in STEM professions has limited the participation of female engineers and in the energy sector, various institutions and measures have emerged to address this. The African Energy Chamber is working with Women in Hydrogen in support of increased women’s participation in the sector, while the World Bank unveiled the Energy2Equal and Women in Renewable Energy in Africa network to address the increasing gender gap across Africa’s energy sector. Ethiopian Electric Utility is also working with universities to encourage women’s participation in STEM careers to achieve 100% energy access by 2025.

“The goal should be not having to talk about our roles in terms of being the first or the only. Then we will know we have reached our goal. There are some other challenges: diversity along every line, equity, and inclusion along every line. It’s one thing to sit at the table, it’s another to be included,” said Adams.

With women only accounting for 22% of jobs in energy production and distribution across the globe, according to IEA, the panel highlighted how this could be addressed.

“This sector remains one of the least transformed and it is vital that we close this gender gap. The reality is that the transition is here and we have to make sure that we navigate it in a just manner,” said Mojapelo, describing how the industry needs a transformation in participants. She elaborated, “The younger talent needs mentors and coaches and we must avail ourselves. We need to be mentors and coaches to young leaders growing up. We need to make sure that conscious bias is eliminated.”

“The importance of the just transition and how this is linked to decent quality jobs and industries are not attracting that diverse work force and are missing that opportunity. This needs to be addressed and women play a very significant role in making this happen,” answered Miranda. “There needs to be real, concerted action for implementation and a holistic view of why this is important. There is an opportunity to look at what happens in other industries and try to complement that work. Taking the space, being in a more leadership role, and being able to address key issues.”

Moreover, with Africa seeking to attract investments to boost the energy sector, the panel revealed the role women in regulation and finance sectors can play in developing innovative financial solutions and investor-friendly fiscal terms and policies needed to boost Africa’s energy landscape.

“There are a lot of jobs and opportunities to get women to start participating in these new industries,” encouraged Mojapelo, saying that innovation in jobs and diversifying work forces is an attractive aspect for investors who aim to diversify with the times.

Finally, the panel discussed their experiences in the industry and how they rose to the positions they are in. Mabuto succinctly summed up by saying, “We need to lift each other as we rise and connect.”

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