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How Women Can Power the Green Transition

The shift to sustainable energy gives societies a chance to tackle systemic gender discrimination. Fortunately, governments, firms, universities, and NGOs increasingly recognize the need to make the green transition more diverse and inclusive.

BRASÍLIA – The world needs to shift from the current fossil-fuel-based energy system to carbon neutrality. Most obviously, this will require countries to roll out renewable energy and integrate it into the electricity grid, boost energy efficiency, upgrade infrastructure, and refine the governance of electricity and energy markets. Less apparent, success will require that women are able to contribute to the transition on an equal footing with men.

Energy transitions will differ depending on countries’ development priorities, the proportion of the population with access to power grids, the current energy mix, and projected demand. Some transitions may involve simply retrofitting old, unsustainable assets in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while others may be part of a multifaceted development strategy for societal transformation, including gender equality and inclusion. But all countries should commit to creating jobs and leaving no one behind.

Although the available data vary considerably, women probably represent – at most – one-third of the global sustainable energy workforce. And their share typically is much lower in the so-called STEM professions (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and in executive positions. Unsurprisingly, awareness of gender dynamics in the workplace also tends to be low. Moreover, policies that could help redress the current imbalance in the sector – such as flextime, parental leave, return-to-work schemes, bias-free recruitment and promotion, and gender-balanced boards and panels – are scarce.

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