Equal by 30 – bringing gender equality to clean energy

1st March 2019


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Brenda Sullivan

The C3E Initiative sets out the aims of its Equal by 30 campaign – challenging companies and governments to involve more women into the clean energy sector

During the past four decades, the increased participation of women in the global economy has been a significant driver of prosperity and growth. A study by McKinsey Global Institute estimated that greater gender equality could add as much as US$12trn in annual global GDP by the year 2025 – equivalent to the GDP of Germany, Japan and the UK combined.

Gender equality isn't just the smart thing to do, it's the right thing to do. Women must be leaders in embracing a greener future, bringing their ideas and solutions forward.

But gender equality is by no means assured, especially in the clean energy sector. Worldwide, women continue to be underrepresented in clean energy, representing just 35% of the workforce, despite comprising of 49.6% of the population. Around the boardroom table, representation is even more scarce. An index by Ernst & Young shows that in 2016, women comprised only 16% of the boards of the world's largest power and utility companies.

As the sector continues to rely upon technological breakthroughs and innovation, the need for skilled talent is becoming urgent. Latest estimates by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) project that clean energy jobs will top 40m by 2050; the full inclusion of women is vital.

There is broad consensus on some of the most critical steps for achieving gender equality. First is talent management, and the need for conscious and deliberate advancement of qualified women to senior management roles.

Next is a question of creating opportunities by making organisational cultures inclusive and diverse, so that women have the tools they need to succeed. Finally, organisations must follow through with policies and guidelines that promote equal pay and opportunities.

These three principles are at the heart of a new campaign called Equal by 30 that challenges companies and governments to endorse equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector. Launched in 2018 under the banner of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), the campaign welcomed an initial cohort of more than 20 companies, as well as the countries of Canada, Sweden, Italy and Finland.

Under Equal by 30, endorsing the principles is a first step. Once on board, organisations and countries set out clear and measurable actions that demonstrate their commitment to gender equality and help move the dial.

Actions can include major steps, such as the government of Canada's recent tabling of equal pay legislation, as well as small but meaningful first steps, such as appointing a gender champion – a change that has been shown to help build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Over time, the collective actions of organisations and governments become a record of best practices and successes that can transform the sector from the bottom up.

Since its launch, Equal by 30 has taken significant steps to galvanise that transformation. It was a centerpiece of the G7 Energy Ministers' Meeting in Halifax, Canada, last September, where France, Germany, the UK, the US and Japan joined Canada and Italy as signatories.

And it continues to invite endorsement from companies across the energy sector – including traditional energy, which plays an important role in the global transition.

Now into its eighth month, the campaign is transitioning from building consensus to taking action. Signatories are regularly given access to activities and tools that bring them together to learn and share experiences, and to report on their progress over time.

Signatories are also indirectly involved in other gender-focused work under the CEM – namely, that of the Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment (C3E) Initiative. This initiative includes, among other things, finding the data policymakers need to evaluate what can and must be done to tap the gender potential in clean energy.

This momentum has set the stage for the 2019 CEM, hosted by Canada in Vancouver this May. There, Canada intends to shine a light on the companies and governments working to put gender equality at the heart of its clean energy plans.

Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, Amarjeet Sohi, says that the campaign is an example of the country's commitment to inclusive growth. Women's empowerment is not just a 'nice to have', but a fundamental piece of the country's competitive advantage.

“We have helped to build a global consensus around the need to promote gender equality, but the power of the Equal by 30 campaign is that it compels us to actually do something about it,“ Sohi said. “The status quo is no longer an option.“ “I invite all companies and governments interested in making a change to join Equal by 30 and to be part of this transformative moment where women begin to take on the leadership they deserve.“ Learn more about the Equal by 30 campaign at www.Equalby30.org

The Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Initiative aims to enable greater gender diversity in clean energy professions

Image credit: iStock

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