In recognition of International Women’s Day 2022, we look at some of the significant systemic inequalities that cause a severe lack of representation of women in the energy sector, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), senior leadership and board roles.
At 39 per cent, representation of women is higher across the Australian clean energy workforce than traditional energy sectors. In the broader energy sector, women make up 22 per cent of the workforce.
Yet, the clean energy sector remains male-dominated. More than 60 per cent of the workforce identify as men. The representation of women drops further in senior positions. Women hold 19 per cent of board positions in the Australian clean energy workforce, well below the 34.2 per cent of women on ASX 200 boards.
Women’s participation in STEM jobs within renewables is far lower than in administrative roles, and despite women making up 50 per cent of Australia’s workforce, there is a significant drop in the representation of women within age demographics, with 46 per cent being under 30.
These lackluster statistics are the result of various systemic barriers and inequalities in place.
Managing Director of BayWA r.e. Projects Australia, Fleur Yaxley, said that one of the biggest challenges she faces as a woman in a male-dominated industry is the physical and psychological lack of safety in the workplace.
“In the renewables industry much of the culture remains misogynistic, especially in smaller teams, with aggressive domineering male personalities indulged and cheered after rising through the ranks of a male-dominated industry. It’s high time for us to break the bias,” Ms Yaxley said.
“By having more women at the top in our industry we effect the change we need – create safe, inclusive and unbiased places in which diversity can thrive.
“At BayWa r.e. Projects Australia we are working hard to understand why we get so few female job applicants.
“When I interview for jobs, men almost never fail to exaggerate their capacity and experience.
“Too many women I interview undersell themselves and their achievements, they tell me what they haven’t done or they don’t even apply.”
Many women such as Ms Yaxley are pushing for better representation within the energy sector.
Chair of AEMC, Anna Collyer, said, “Recognising that we all hold biases, whether they be about gender, leadership style or a myriad of other things, is the first step to creating an inclusive environment where diversity is valued.
“Women and girls are effective as powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation.
“It’s essential for greater gender equality that we continue to examine the opportunities to empower women and girls to be equal players in decision-making related to climate change.
“Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future remains beyond our reach.”
Equal by 30 campaign
In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) announced its commitment to the Equal by 30 campaign, and highlighted the crucial role of a new baseline survey of energy employment in supporting women to enter the sector.
The move reflects the EEC’s commitment to working towards equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in Australia’s energy management sector by 2030.
Equal by 30, a campaign that works to advance the participation of women in the clean energy transition and to close the gender gap, has been endorsed by a host of private sector organisations and 13 national governments, including the Federal Government, which joined the initiative at COP26 in Glasgow in late 2021.
Dr Mary Stewart, President of the Energy Efficiency Council, said that the move highlights the EEC’s commitment to unlocking the benefits of diversity in the energy management sector.
“Research consistently demonstrates that a diverse workforce and gender-balanced boardrooms result in better organisational performance and stronger results.
“Equal by 30 provides an important platform for the EEC to highlight these benefits, and work with members and the broader industry to ensure the transformation underway in the way we generate, use and manage energy benefits everyone equally.”
The EEC has gender parity within its staff, executive leadership team, and board, and is working on a range of initiatives to support the broader industry in improving diversity and inclusion within their own operations.
Subsidised Victorian apprenticeships for women in solar
The Victorian Government is offering new training and support measures to women in the solar industry, to ensure that women are a part of the state’s transition to clean energy.
Victorian Minister for Solar Homes, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced subsidised apprenticeships, professional mentoring, and access to ongoing education to lift the number of women participating in the renewables industry thanks to Solar Victoria’s $11 million Growing our Clean Energy Workforce package.
“We’re supporting and empowering women while encouraging the next generation to take advantage of the ever-growing opportunities created by Victoria’s thriving clean energy sector,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“Victoria is leading the nation as we transition to a renewable energy future with a cheap and reliable power supply – delivering investment and creating thousands of jobs right across the state.”
Women are significantly under-represented in solar, making up less than one per cent of electricians, plumbers, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, solar designers and installers, and licensed electrical inspectors.
The State Government will subsidise 50 per cent of the cost of new apprenticeships to help women enter the industry and provide apprentices a tool allowance along with six-monthly incentive payments.
Group training organisations, Ai Group Apprentice Training Centre and Apprenticeships Group Australia, will manage the apprenticeships.
For women working in related energy industries, free or low-cost training delivered by registered training organisations will be available to help transition to clean energy or to upskill in renewables.
The package also includes targeted support from industry group, Tradeswomen Australia, for women working in, entering or thinking of entering the solar industry through access to online workshops, conversational information sessions promoting a career in solar, and professional mentoring.
In addition to targeted support to increase the participation of women, the Growing Our Clean Energy Workforce package offers programs to upskill women and men already working in clean energy, as well as targeted safety and mental health first aid training.
Since launching in 2018, the Solar Homes program has supported up to 5,500 clean energy jobs across Victoria.
The landmark program has helped more than 200,000 Victorians reduce their carbon footprint through rebates for the installation of solar panels, batteries, solar hot water, zero emissions vehicles and heating upgrades.