Prioritizing Women’s Leadership on Climate Change
Power Africa and the Tony Blair Institute are collaborating to increase women’s participation in Africa’s energy sector, an essential element of policy change and climate action.
In 2022, at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), only seven of the 110 participating state leaders were women. Despite formal recognition three years prior, at COP25, that meaningful participation and leadership by women are vital for achieving long-term climate goals, women are still poorly represented, and their roles as change agents are continually overlooked.
Women Lead Effectively on Environmental Issues
Research on gender equality offers a compelling reason for women to lead as equals alongside men in the fight against climate change: women make more climate-friendly decisions:
- Studies show that national parliaments with greater representation of women are more likely to adopt stringent climate-change policies, resulting in lower carbon emissions.
- Additional research demonstrates that countries where women have become more politically and socially empowered have reduced their carbon emissions by an average of 12 percent over the last 30 years.
- Similarly, companies with more women on their boards of directors are more likely to invest in renewable energy resources and to take action on environmental challenges.
Two women who exemplify such environmental leadership are Maisa Rojas, Chile’s Environment Minister, and Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s Special Climate Envoy. These women led the creation of the United Nations Loss and Damages Fund, a key success of COP27. The Loss and Damages Fund is being established to ensure that the most polluting countries compensate vulnerable countries for harm incurred because of climate change.
Getting Women on Board Through Policy, Education, and Communication
Women have the right to live in a healthy and sustainable environment and to participate in all decision-making that affects their lives, livelihoods, and communities. This principle is enshrined in international instruments that inform a rights-based approach to climate change. Most governments across Africa have committed to these international protocols; now they must act on those commitments.
To increase women’s leadership on climate change, it is particularly important for more women to participate in the energy sector, which produces significant greenhouse gas emissions. Women make up a mere 22 percent of the energy industry workforce, and only 32 percent of workers in the renewable energy sub-sector.
Several types of interventions can ease women’s paths into the energy industry:
The Importance of Policy
First, government policy should establish a clear vision and commitment to increase women’s participation in the energy sector. Some African governments have already adopted policies or strategies to improve gender equality in energy; these include the governments of Kenya and South Africa, as well as those of most West African (ECOWAS) countries, through National Action Plans on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access. A gender policy with quantifiable and time-bound targets promotes accountability, which spurs action and mobilises implementing partners.
- In Togo, the ministry of energy is launching activities to promote women’s participation in public and private institutions, a requirement of its national action plan to achieve gender equality in energy. To achieve this goal, a capacity-building program for women in public institutions of the energy sector is now being implemented with support from Power Africa and the Tony Blair Institute.
- With assistance from Power Africa and the Tony Blair Institute, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) rural-electrification agency, ANSER, adopted a gender strategy to help women and men enjoy equal access to energy services in rural and peri-urban areas. The strategy refers to DRC’s commitments towards gender equality and identifies actions ANSER can take to improve women’s participation in the institution.
Gender policies and associated action plans can stipulate concrete measures to promote women’s participation at all levels of decision-making. For instance, at the local level, it can set 50–50 representation quotas for local consultations, promote the mobilisation of women’s groups, and subsidise transportation and childcare costs to enable women to attend consultations or training sessions.
Attract Women to Stem Fields and Celebrate Their Achievements
Workers with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are essential to help countries shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Around the world, men disproportionately fill roles in STEM fields. Scholarships, internships, and career-advancement programs can attract more women to scientific and vocational education that would equip them for careers in the energy sector.
Power Africa works with governments, educational institutions and sector leaders to retrain, upskill and attract qualified women to work in the energy sector.
For example, Power Africa’s Women in Rwandan Energy initiative collaborated with Rwandan energy companies to provide on-the-job training through three-month apprenticeships for 184 female graduates from universities and technical colleges. Power Africa also developed the Women in African Power Network and Resource Directory, which connects female energy professionals to each other and enables public and private stakeholders to recruit women active in the sector.
Another way to get more girls and women interested in energy is to break down stereotypes through storytelling — sharing the experiences of women in the industry. USAID’s Energy Sector Women’s Leadership Program and other initiatives are amplifying the voices of female leaders and showcasing transformative initiatives led by women to inspire younger generations to follow in their footsteps.
Women are essential in the fight against climate change. They bring unique perspectives to drive bold climate action. Governments must act now to ensure that women are given equal access to the climate action driving seats, as a necessary condition of success for a just energy transition.
- Delphine Hennegrave, Energy Access and Gender Lead, Power Africa Senior Advisors Group Program, Tony Blair Institute
- Karen Stefiszyn, Gender Advisor in the Power Africa Off-grid Project
- Denise Mortimer, Gender Advisor, Power Africa