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Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK.

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Bridging the Green Energy Gender Gap

  • Women remain underrepresented in green energy, similar to the traditional energy sector, with only 15% in oil and gas as of 2019.
  • Diverse leadership in companies, including more women, correlates with higher financial returns, as noted in a McKinsey report.
  • Efforts to increase women's participation include categorizing them as "underrepresented workers" for funding eligibility, but challenges persist in STEM fields and venture capital funding for women-led clean tech businesses.

Recent studies suggest that there is a high gender disparity in green energy jobs, with not enough women working in the sector. This is not surprising given the long-standing gender disparity seen in the oil and gas sector. But a new energy sector brings a new way of working and the potential to create millions of new jobs for women around the world. Greater diversity of employment in companies has been shown to lead to improved financial returns and enhanced innovation, which are vital to the development of the green energy sector. 

A recent analysis of data by the Fuller Project shows that jobs in the clean energy sector are overwhelmingly dominated by men. The data demonstrates that just 31 percent of workers in green energy are women, a figure that has remained unchanged since former President Barack Obama pledged to create 5 million green jobs in 2008. While the number of jobs has increased, the gender disparity in the sector has remained the same. The analysis shows that women are underrepresented at both the junior and senior levels. The data was gathered using information from millions of online public profiles, résumés, job postings, sentiment reviews and layoff notices. 

At present, the only legislation on the inclusion of women workers in the energy sector is a 45-year-old executive order that recommended that women complete 6.9 precent of the work hours on federally funded construction projects. President Biden hopes to use the green transition as a chance to develop the job markets and economies of disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, which could include women. Some companies are now categorising women as “underrepresented workers” to reduce the barriers to careers in the industry. This could help projects become eligible for funding under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which will hopefully encourage more companies to follow this approach. 

While the lack of development of the women’s job market in green energy is disappointing, it is not particularly surprising given the track record of the energy industry. By 2019, women accounted for just 15 percent of workers in the oil and gas industry. In addition to the longstanding employment trends of the energy industry, many of the jobs being created in green energy exist within other underrepresented industries, such as construction. 

In a publication by McKinsey entitled Diversity Matters, it was found that companies in the top quartile for women leaders are 15 percent more likely to have above–industry average financial returns, suggesting the correlation between diverse leadership and success. This demonstrates the potential detrimental financial impact of not hiring a diverse workforce. 

In 2022, the Horizon EU Research and Innovation Magazine published a report entitled “Women’s full participation in renewables is essential for a fair and green future”. The paper suggests that one of the reasons women continue to be underrepresented in the energy sector is due to the low participation of women in scientific, technical and engineering (STEM) disciplines, despite growing demand. Women make up around 38 percent of PhDs in physical sciences and 27 percent in engineering. Further, only 24 percent of self-employed professionals in science, engineering and ICT are women. While the demand from women to study STEM subjects is rising, there continue to be barriers to entry, particularly in low-income countries. 

When it comes to women working in clean tech, it is estimated that women take up less than 30 percent of roles at present. In the U.K., venture capital funding for clean tech businesses with an all-female founded team receives less than one precent, compared to clean tech businesses with an all-male founded team, which receive 81 percent of funding. While women-owned companies are four times less likely to attain venture capital funding than male-owned companies. Nevertheless, there has been some progress in participation, with female speaker participation at the Cleantech Forum Europe increasing from 21 percent in 2018 to 35 percent in 2022, in the Cleantech Forum Asia from 17 percent in 2018 to 30 percent in 2022, and in the Cleantech Forum North America from 17 percent to 34 percent. 

In the 2023 State of the EU address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the Commission's commitment to the EU Gender Equality Strategy and announced the development of a “European Wind Power Package”. To achieve this, governments must work to challenge the social and cultural perceptions of the traditional role women typically play in the energy sector. There are expected to be 30 million women working in the renewable energy sector by 2050, compared to 11 million in 2019, but this will require a shift in access to studying in STEM fields, the removal of barriers to employment in the industry and the shift of social norms. 

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com 

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