Modernizing the hydroelectric sector, a question of gender equality

Hidroelectricidad género

Globally, women make up about 22% of the workforce in the traditional energy industry, and 32% of the workforce in the renewable energy sector, according to IRENA data.

Studies have consistently shown that greater gender diversity leads to better business results. More women in business leadership leads to better and more efficient decision-making, fewer risks, greater innovation, greater corporate responsibility, better use of available talent, and higher profits. In the Latin American energy sector, women only represent 9% of CEOs and 17% of senior managers. Clearly, diversity is still a pending task.

In addition to leadership positions, there is also a need to increase diversity in technical positions. One of the reasons that renewable energy companies have difficulty attracting more women for technical positions is the low proportion of women studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas.

The hydroelectric industry, in particular, requires experts in disciplines such as hydraulic engineering, civil construction, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, geology, among others, but only about 20% of graduates in these disciplines are women.

Other barriers to women entering the renewable energy sector include unequal access to training, education, mentoring and learning opportunities available to them and the lack of supportive social policies in many companies (such as licensing by parenting, flexible work hours, and other accommodations that support healthy work and work-life balance).

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions of the world with the greatest inequality, including gender inequality. The region has a great opportunity to work to close these gaps, and have a diverse workforce that generates sustainable and inclusive growth.

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New gender study to explore the employment of women in the hydroelectric sector

One of the pillars of the IDB’s 2025 vision is the promotion of gender equality. This is reflected in the support that the IDB gives to the region, through technical assistance and in policy and investment loans. In 2019 and 2020, almost all operations financed in the energy sector were aligned with the IDB’s gender equality policies.

In this area, a new World Bank study, supported by the International Hydroelectric Energy Association (IHA), will seek to identify the gaps in the hydroelectric sector, in order to propose ways to promote gender equality. The World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) initiative is being implemented by IHA in conjunction with the Global Women’s Network for Energy Transition (GWNET).

The study will analyze the gender gap in employment in the hydroelectric sector, which employs around two million people worldwide. It will try to determine where women work within companies and identify barriers to entry and growth, as well as effective strategies.

The ultimate goal of the study is to identify and promote best practices and provide practical approaches on gender equality that can be applied by organizations working in the hydropower sector. We believe that the results of the study will be very useful for all companies in the sector, in addition to policy makers, and institutions involved in the hydroelectric sector, such as the IDB.

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How to participate in the study?

The first phase of the study includes data collection through an online survey, aimed at people from private companies, public services, governmental and non-governmental organizations, who work directly or indirectly in the sector, as well as from the academic world. A key point to achieve useful results will be to have a large sample, which can be representative of all countries, cultures, and types of companies. For this reason, we encourage both men and women who work in the hydroelectric sector, throughout the region, to participate in the study.

The second phase of the study will include focus group discussions and interviews with people from the sector. Those interested in providing feedback in this way can do so by indicating their interest at the end of the survey.

Finally, the initiative will bring together best practice case studies from around the world to improve the participation of women in the sector. The results will be reported in mid-2022 and will include recommendations and guidance to improve gender equality.

To participate you can complete one of the two surveys, depending on your area of ​​work. These take about 10 minutes to complete and are available in Spanish, English and French:

An important step for the sector

Representing about 16% of total electricity generation and about two-thirds of total renewable electricity generation, hydroelectric generation is expected to double by 2050, according to the IEA. The sector will need to grow very quickly to play its role effectively. In Latin America, in particular, hydroelectricity will be essential to support the decarbonization of the regional electricity matrix, given that it currently provides about 50% of the region’s electricity, and that it will support the insertion of wind and solar energy in the coming decades.

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Various studies carried out by the IDB show the need to modernize hydroelectric plants, so that they continue to provide low-cost renewable energy and support the energy transition. The development and modernization of the sector will need to draw on the best available talent from the widest possible group, which should include both women and men. Gender diversity is also an essential part of the modernization that this sector requires.

This new study seeks just that, which will result in better employment opportunities for women in the hydroelectric sector through better data, information and knowledge. For this reason, the IDB supports the objectives of the study proposed by the World Bank and the IHA, and we encourage women and men who work in the sector to participate.

For more information and to participate in interviews or focus groups, contact IHA Analyst Acile Hammoud at [email protected]

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