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Municipalities are currently faced with major challenges in terms of energy supply, including illegal connections and electricity tariffs driving consumers off the national grid. These result in lower municipal revenue, which is a huge concern that leaves little time to address gender parity in the industry.

This article first appeared in ESI-Africa Edition 4, 2018. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Women will be empowered to fulfil their roles in the energy revolution if they are involved from project inception through to project closure, states the AMEU’s Women in Electricity Chairperson, Punkie Majola – a professional engineering technician with 19 years’ experience in electrical engineering. Ahead of the AMEU Convention, Punkie spoke with ESI Africa about the benefits of including women in the energy revolution.

How would you define the energy revolution?

A major industry change is the prioritisation of renewable energy and climate change initiatives. Municipalities are actively investing more in small-scale embedded generation,
waste to power, hydroelectricity and green building initiatives to make the transition.

Ultimately, the energy revolution is causing a re-think in terms of municipal business models and energy security, with specific focus on:
• Building generation capacity: Financial models must allow for increased investment in renewables and mini-grids. Financing and support must also be secured from relevant stakeholders who are willing to assist in the energy security of the country
• Exploring how to play a facilitation role by operating as a storage facility, as well as wheeling and energy trading
• Procurement of electricity from IPPs

It is important that women play a role in the drafting of policy and strategy that will define the sector’s path to ensure they are gender sensitive. Studies have revealed that realising gender equality positively contributes to the economy and that gender representation across all levels of an organisation leads to better organisational performance. Having female representation in boardrooms where decisions are made will overcome the barriers to gender-sensitive projects and budgets.

What are the trends in the energy sector in terms of empowerment of women?

The IUCN Environment and Gender Index (EGI) estimates that women occupy only 4% of the World Energy Council (WEC) positions and 18% of WEC Secretary positions. The study shows that the energy sector is faced with serious challenges in terms of empowering women, namely:
• A small pool of female mentors within the energy sector
• Lack of succession planning and training for decision making roles
• Lack of gender-sensitive budgets and projects
• Not enough emphasis on attracting young women in the STEM fields
• Insufficient female participation in the Engineering Counsel and Professional Registration
• Fewer women entrepreneurs are actively participating in the energy sector, compared to men
• Lack of monitoring and evaluation of the gender gap

These trends indicate that progress is slow. Even though women are entering the sector, they are not filling decision making roles. A survey I conducted shows that 80% of women entering the market at lower level positions remain at that level for a period of 10 years with no promotion opportunity. It is therefore vital for us to ask questions such as; are
women being adequately trained, are they being exposed to the same opportunities as men, are recruitment panels represented equally by men and women, as well as what
policies and strategies are in place to ensure we bridge the gender gap in the energy sector, thus ensuring women occupy decision making positions.

The mandate for AMEU Women in Electricity is to address the challenges identified above to ensure women participate at all levels of the organisation and sector. We recommend interventions that will prioritise leadership, training and mentorship, effective succession planning and advance female entrepreneurs.

This article first appeared in ESI-Africa Edition 4, 2018. Read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.