March 8th has become an international day to make women’s participation in society more visible and to highlight effective equality.
Looking back, a great deal of progress has been made towards the real integration of women, but we must also be aware of how much remains to be done. Inequality still persists today. Even if we are fortunate enough not to perceive it in our day-to-day lives, it remains a major problem in society.
Female presence in the energy sector
The energy sector does not escape the general trend. Although huge progress has been made in recent years, it is still an area with a low female presence. According to AEMENER (Spanish Association of Energy Women), less than 30% of the workforce in this sector in Spain is female.
In senior and middle management positions, the presence of women is much lower than that of men. Only 22.5% of women hold senior management positions. This, in addition to being a reality that urgently needs to be changed, is meaningless if we evaluate capabilities, education levels and the total population of women.
It is essential to understand the reasons why the presence of women is not more widespread in the sector in order to be able to provide solutions. On the one hand, it may be due to traditional gender roles and on the other hand, due to the so-called “glass ceiling”.
Gender biases and stereotypes are an obstacle to the presence of women in the energy sector. Traditional cultural and social norms still influence the labour market and education, which means that the presence of women remains limited in the sector and, in general, in all subjects related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills.
“To have more women in this sector, it is essential that initiatives continue to be promoted to give women greater visibility,” said Rosa Nieto, Director of Asset Management at Enagás, in this blog. “Sometimes it can be difficult to find female role models, not because they do not exist, but because of the lack of visibility. This is key to making technical careers attractive to girls and young women.”
It´s essential that initiatives continue to be promoted to give women greater visibility
The presence of women in the business world, and in turn in the energy sector, is also influenced by the so-called “glass ceiling”, that invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing to managerial positions. For Maria Rita Galli, appointed CEO of DESFA a year ago, “ the real piece of news will be, when a woman CEO in an Energy company will no longer be news.”
Perceptions of gender roles have a lot to do with it, but there are other factors that create these obstacles such as unequal pay, women’s involvement in family care, work-life balance, etc.
But how is this situation being addressed?
To increase the presence of women, at least to values comparable to their relevance in society as a whole, it is important to provide a gender perspective to the energy sector (as to any other sector in which women are underrepresented).
The contribution of women in this field must be highlighted. A sector that is set to be of great importance in the coming years, with a paradigm shift – the energy transition – that will require the talent of everyone, women and men, working in multidisciplinary teams towards a common goal.
“We are facing a change of model in many aspects of society and the economy. The transition to a decarbonised economy is one of the clearest examples. There are many challenges and targets and I am convinced, as my colleague Rosa pointed out in the previous interview, that the female perspective is going to be key to achieving a more sustainable future,” said Susana de Pablo, Dispatching Director at Enagás, in an interview.
The European Commission is clear on this issue and in 2021 launched its “Equality platform for the energy sector”, where it states that it is important for the energy sector to actively promote equal opportunities at all levels, from energy professionals and decision-makers to consumers.
It will therefore be necessary to act accordingly by establishing reconciliation policies, promoting family support measures and reinforcing diversity plans.
Also by eliminating the pay gap, promoting job flexibility, creating targeted career plans, promotin mentoring programmes, facilitating networking and increasing training opportunities.
Of course, it is important for society and the educational sphere to support girls’ capabilities in STEM skills . María Retuerto, researcher at CSIC, and recently interviewed in this blog, considers that “girls should be encouraged and educated from a young age to study whatever they want without any conditions determined by their gender.”
It´s important for the educational sphere to support girls’ capabilities in STEM skills
There are many initiatives promoted by sector companies to support the presence of women at all levels of the organisation.
In Enagás, for example, the presence of women is 29% and the goal is to continue to increase this percentage. “We are committed to measures aimed at increasing the participation of women in positions of responsibility, as well as training, coaching and networking initiatives to promote female talent,” says Teresa Blanco, the company’s Diversity Manager. Some examples are the Women with Talent development programme, the Promociona project and the Progresa project, the latter in collaboration with the CEOE, which aims to provide high-potential women with the necessary tools and skills to boost their professional careers and take on high-level positions of responsibility in the future.
“The great challenge is not only to promote the presence of women at management level, but also at middle management and operator level, where the presence is lower,” she points out. To this end, the company is promoting initiatives such as #EllasTeLoCuentan (#TheyTellYou), which aims to showcase the personal and professional development of some of its female employees by highlighting their technical profile in the company.