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More women leaders needed in energy firms to accelerate Africa’s green transition

DESPITE their vulnerability to climate impacts, women are more likely than men to adopt new ideas and unlock innovative climate solutions, according to a new report. However, women are missing from key decision-making roles at most renewable energy firms in Africa, the report says.

CONRAD ONYANGO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

INCREASING the share of women in key decision-making and technical roles at Africa’s renewable energy firms could potentially accelerate climate action that cuts down emissions, increases innovation and improves profitability, a new report suggests.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) sponsored report makes the case that, unlike men, women have a high capacity to maximize the power of different opinions, perspectives and cultures to initiate and run projects that unlock better solutions to climate change.

The report shows that women are on the frontline of climate change impact and make most of the energy choices at home, making their presence at the decision-making tables of energy firms, critical.

“Renewable Energy (RE) companies could benefit from having more women on staff to advise on market trends and on the design of production and distribution strategies,” said the study, which covered 10 African countries.

Titled, Women’s participation in the renewable energy workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa, the report surveyed 64 companies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Zambia.

the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the renewable energy sector will account for 75 percent of new energy generation and provide more than 40 percent of all of Africa’s power generation capacity, by 2040. The growth will be driven by improvements in technology and lower costs.

“The rapid expansion of the RE sector will require a larger skilled workforce, particularly in the private sector, and women can help companies to meet this demand,” according to the report.

In 2020, the sector in Sub-Saharan Africa employed 219,000 people, with about half of the jobs (110,000) dedicated to off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) and largely male-dominated, according to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates.

Currently, women account for up to a third of top leadership positions – the highest percentage being in the chief executive officer role (30 percent), followed by directors (27 percent), middle and lower-level managers (26 percent) and vice presidents (16 percent).

Most female employees are housed in corporate support functions that are less critical for feeding the leadership pipeline. The report shows most female employees were in administration roles (38 percent), communications and public relations (34 percent) and sales (31 percent).

Conversely, only 13 percent of women employees were recorded in positions that required a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

A slightly higher proportion (16 percent) were found in non-STEM technical positions such as environmental, health and safety, legal, and other standards.

“The case for women in the workforce and at the centre of Renewable Energy(RE) installation is clear, we should therefore seek to leverage the RE opportunity to draw women from the fringes of the sector to the forefront,” said IFC Regional Industry Director for Infrastructure in Africa, Linda Munyengeterwa.

While companies can gain much from the provision of strong leadership from the top to embed gender equality in the corporate culture, countries will benefit by reducing legal barriers restricting women to work in energy firms, according to the report.

“Workplace policies and practices can be strengthened to attract, retain, and promote more women,” said Munyengeterwa.

Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal were listed by a World Bank report, Women, Business, and the Law 2021, as countries whose national laws restrict women’s access to opportunities for high-paying jobs in the energy sector.

There is, however, a silver lining. Comparative reports show the continent’s renewable energy firms have more women on their boards than other sectors.

At 27 percent, RE companies in Africa also rank higher than the G-20 country average (20 percent) and the African average for other sectors (18 percent), according to the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges 2021 and The Board Room Africa 2021.

/bird story agency