On 14 December, the Sino-German Energy Partnership and the Beijing Energy Network jointly organized a network event on empowering women’s leadership in energy transition. As one of the following activities under the "Women in Green Energy" initiative launched in 2020, the event gathered senior experts and scholars in the energy sector and gender research area to share and discuss the current situation and challenges that women in the energy transition sector are facing. The event also addressed support measures and best practices to promote women's leadership from institutional, societal, and individual perspectives.
Women in energy sector – challenges & opportunities
The workforce in the energy sector has a significant gender gap. As stated in a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) “Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective”, the energy industry is far from being gender-balanced with only 22% of women in the traditional energy sector and 32% in the renewable energy sector.
The energy transition and the trend towards renewable energy, however, present unprecedented opportunities for women. According to the newly released “Renewables 2021 Global Status Report” by REN21, the year 2020 saw renewables’ global capacity grow by more than 10% or 256 GW. By the end of 2018, around 11 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide as stated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). By 2050, the global drive for energy transition will increase the number of jobs in renewable energy to 42 million. In other words, the number of people employed in the sector will grow by more than 30 million over the next 30 years.
The significance of diversity in the energy sector
Women have a lot to offer for the energy sector, especially in times of change. Scientific research in other sectors has found that a diversified workforce delivers better results, not only in terms of increased creativity and innovation potential, but also related to better decision-making and greater profits. Initial research findings have also led to conclude that companies with more women on their board of directors are inter alia more likely to invest in renewable power generation, mitigate climate change and proactively address environmental concerns. Still, this potential has not yet translated into substantially narrowing the gender gap in the energy sector.
Event recap – discussion is the start
The Sino-German Energy Partnership invited the following speakers for an in-depth panel discussion:
- Mr. DAI Yande, Former Director of Energy Research Institute, NDRC
- Ms. JIANG Liping, Vice President, State Grid Energy Power Research Institute
- Ms. Zhao Ming, Executive Vice President, China Energy and Environ-mental Service Industry Alliance
- Ms. FANG Xiaoju, Director of Brand and Public Affairs, Envision Energy
- Ms. Wang Qing, UN Women
- Ms. LI Shuyi, Industry Decarbonization Manager, RMI China
While addressing the challenges and opportunities during the discussion, it uncoverd the common bias on gender issues; and also allowed the audience to recognize how governments, institutions, businesses and individuals can each play a role in empowering women. Women can drive the green energy transition through initiatives and practices, such as the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), launched by UN Women and the UN Global Compact to achieve gender equality in the workplace, job market and in the community.
The discussion also created room for deeper reflection for the panelists and participants. Vice President Jiang Liping from State Grid Energy Power Research Institute expressed the question, "how to extend the perspective further to address social issues and social needs in the process of driving the energy transition forward.” For a successful low carbon transition in the energy sector the interests of society as a whole have to be considered. The energy transition cannot be achieved without the participation and support of different social groups.