Renewable energy sector striving to increase gender representation at all levels

8th March 2021 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

Renewable energy sector striving to increase gender representation at all levels

SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli

A decade into the creation of South Africa’s renewable energy sector, it has become apparent that it is still lagging in gender diversity, which is why South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli says the industry is actively giving attention to adjust and improve the levels of gender representation, at all levels, with the launch of its Gender Diversity Working Group.

“Gender diversity means a fair gender representation across all spheres of our industry,” she comments, lamenting that a 2020 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program shows that women represent only 21% of the global wind energy workforce and only 8% of its senior management.

Recognising that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in the wind energy sector is as much a South African challenge as it is a global challenge, SAWEA launched a Commitment Statement in 2018, which commits members of the association to address, among other things, issues of gender equality in the sector, Ntuli states.

This sector Working Group will mainstream gender issues within the renewable energy industry by creating a platform and framework that will actively address gender diversity matters within the energy sector and to hold dialogues around areas of inadequate representation.

This new renewable energy industry Working Group is a collaboration between SAWEA and its counterpart in the solar photovoltaic industry, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), as both organisations recognise the need to address gender diversity issues from a broader renewable energy industry perspective.

Additionally, the collaboration includes nonprofit organisation WE Connect, which focuses on women empowerment within the renewable energy sector, with the intention of maximising capacity and increasing the programme’s impact by incorporating gender coaching and mentorship. 

SAPVIA COO Niveshen Govender says “diversity in the workplace is vital for the future success of every organisation. Countless studies have shown the positive effects gender diversity can have in every industry and we must work together to ensure that South Africa’s renewables sector is truly reflective of the society in which we operate.”

However, the sector’s ambition is to deliver a just transition and this must include the upliftment and inclusion of all genders. “This is not just because it is the right thing to do – it also makes commercial sense,” says Govender, who adds that this includes widening the talent pool to enhancing collaboration, improving retention, recruitment and reputation, the payback of an inclusive workplace has never been clearer.

Looking beyond the professional space, the programme will also include a ‘Business Opportunities for Women’ initiative, to provide access for women in entrepreneurship activities in the sector and to support women who are establishing themselves as entrepreneurs.

The Working Group also aims to achieve a Gender Diversity Performance Reporting, which will include a scoring matrix; arrange dialogues and events, such as discussion platforms to address common challenges and shared solutions on gender issues; and launch a Renewable Energy Industry Gender Diversity Charter – in line with the Industry Commitment Statement.

“Simply put, the ultimate target is to see women in the sector having access to and being considered for all opportunities,” concludes Ntuli.