Insight into the 13th Executive Committee’s 2024 Strategy
As we approach the IEA’s 50th anniversary, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the progress made – and work yet to be done – to achieve gender equality in the energy workforce. For 14 consecutive years, the IEA has tracked an increase in women’s representation within the energy workforce, yet we are still vastly behind other sectors in gender diversity. When gender equality and diversity is prioritized in the workplace, the data shows major benefits from improved governance and performance to increased innovation and more. In 2017, Sweden, Italy, and the US established the Equality in Energy Transitions Initiative (the Equality Initiative), a coalition of countries committed to identifying and breaking down the barriers women face in the energy workforce. The Equality Initiative is an International Energy Agency (IEA) Technology Collaboration Program (TCP) and a Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) Initiative.
From November 14th – 15, 2023, senior government representatives of the Equality Initiative met in London, England for its 13th Executive Committee (ExCo) meeting.
Despite the progress over the last decade, there are still inequalities and barriers that make women less likely to enter and/or stay in energy. According to the IEA 2023 World Energy Employment report (figure 1), women make up less than one-fifth (20%) of the energy workforce— well below the 40% average throughout the global workforce.
Approaching gender, diversity, and inclusion is further nuance by way of race and ethnic representation. Referencing the 2021 Equal by 30 report (figure 2), while women at the time made up about 32% of the global energy sector, only 22% of the workforce were either Asian, Latinx, or Black.
Equality Initiative Programming and Strategic Priorities
The Equality Initiative addresses these complex issues through 5 workstreams that are coordinated or led by members and partners:
(1) Data Collection, Knowledge-Building, and Policies
(2) Ambassadors Program and Mentorship
(3) Awards and Recognition
(5) Equal by 30 Campaign
The U.S. Department of Energy leads the Ambassadors Program, which elevates clean energy leaders across government, business, academia and civil society that are promoting gender equality in the energy workforce. The 13th ExCo adopted a strategy for leveraging the Ambassadors Program to attract, retain and inspire more girls and women to pursue rewarding clean energy careers and support their advancement towards more senior roles.A priority for the Ambassadors Program is to recruit more Equality Ambassadors particularly from emerging economies.
The 3 objectives are to (a) deepen and expand networks, (b) identify and utilize best practices, and (c) coordinate policies and activities. Implementation activities include:
(A) Deepen and Expand Networks by
- Reporting and publicizing Equality Initiative updates and activities, Ambassador achievements, employment opportunities, engagement opportunities for Ambassadors
- Facilitating partnerships and increasing communications across global network of organizations advancing gender diversity in the energy sector
(B) Identify and Utilize Best Practices by
- Sharing existing best practice and leveraging the expertise of Ambassadors to share lessons learned on promoting and advancing women’s participation in the energy workforce
(C) Coordinate Policies and Activities by
- Prioritizing youth outreach and support for early career professionals
- Elevating the visibility of Ambassadors as role models
- Promoting policies that address the structural and organizations barriers to gender equality in the energy sector
- Encouraging governments “Walk the Talk” by showcasing the value-add of gender diversity and taking concrete actions to advance diverse representation and participation in the sector
Following the adjournment of the ExCo, the Equality Initiative hosted the Women Powering the Energy Transition networking event. Keynote Speaker British Minister Amanda Solloway emphasized that to achieve gender equality and to foster diversity, we must nurture self-belief in young girls and women.
She recalled how she deeply aspired to become a member of Parliament but genuinely thought that she could not. Now she’s filled four parliamentary positions ranging from Lord Commissioner to Minister of Science, Energy, and Net Zero. MP Amanda Solloway exemplifies that women can forge their path in the energy sector and have a place as leaders at the table.
Bringing women to the table is important, and this event encouraged us to sit with the importance of resourcing girls and women with self-esteem and opportunities. Annette Hollas, Chair of the Equality Initiative, called us to reflect on the different identities and lived experiences of girls and women and to take it as a call to action to uplift one another in pursuit of gender equality.
Martha Kamara (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an ORISE-ORAU Fellow working in the Office of International Affairs.