As Africa moves to make a significant energy sector transformation, women have a fundamental role to play in driving the continent's energy future.

Source: Africa News – Despite making up 50% of the population, women continue to represent a minimal role in the African energy industry, accounting for merely 21% of the overall workforce in energy utilities. Gender disparity, inequality, and barriers to entry not only directly prevent women from participating in the energy industry, but dramatically constrain economic and sector growth.

As the continent moves to make a significant energy sector transformation – on the back of new discoveries, a shift to renewable solutions, and evolving technology -, women have a fundamental role to play in driving Africa’s energy future, and African Energy Week (AEW) taking place in Cape Town in November 2021 aims to strongly emphasize it.

Ironically, studies have shown that companies with women in leadership positions actually have a higher success rate compared to ‘male-dominated’ organizations. Notably, the World Economic Forum (WEF) posits that companies with strong female leadership deliver higher return on equity, while companies with female executive board members outperform those with male-only boards. 

One of the most notable challenges faced by women in the energy industry comprises the continuous underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. With STEM comprising the driving force of the energy sector – particularly in the modern era with technological and renewable solutions relying heavily on innovation -, human capital development is essential, and yet women continue to be excluded. 

However, the challenges faced by women transcend the educational sphere, with barriers to entry within the workforce resulting in reduced participation in the energy industry. It is not enough that women have to struggle for their place at the education table in STEM, but once they enter the workforce they now have to compete for their participation. By not only establishing policies that address the gender gap, but ensuring implementation, the African energy sector has the opportunity to be a globally leading sector in gender equality and inclusivity, driving sectoral and economic growth in the process.

Women are clearly the future of African energy, no doubt they will soon take up their rightful place at the table.

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