Dialogue on Gender Equity Challenges and Opportunities across the Power Sector in India

The energy sector remains one of the most gender imbalanced sectors and gender equity still holds a greater challenge in the India’s power sector. The skewed women participation can partly be attributed to the social and perception barriers about dominance of field-based activities, geographical mobility and shift-based working, which have been traditionally considered as negative for women participation.

During the 2nd International Conference on ‘Large-Scale Renewable Energy in India’ Edgard D. Kagan, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy New Delhi launched the USAID supported “South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE)” under its Greening the Grid (GTG) Renewable Integration and Sustainable Energy (RISE) Initiative. SAWIE aims to provide a platform for women to form a collaborative and strategic approach towards reaching gender equality goals and building strong pillars across power sector. This platform will bring together women leaders across the energy sector to work together on designing interventions in outreach and recruitment; mentorship and leadership; and professional development that can help bridge gender gaps.

During the second day of the conference, a special session on “Dialogue on gender equity challenges and opportunities across the power sector” was organized. The event was largely attended by energy experts to engage and ideate on the pertinent issues and solutions to promote gender equity and equality in the sector. The august panel for the dialogue included esteemed women leaders representing diverse verticals of the energy sector, Dr. Shalini Sarin, Board Chair – Signify Foundation, Dr. Ashu Verma, Associate Professor – Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Kathleen O’ Dell, Principal – Deloitte U.S., Markus Wypior, Deputy Cluster Coordinator-IGEN, GIZ and Debolina Chakravarty, Research Director – Spencer Stuart. Michael Satin, Director, Clean Energy & Environment Office, USAID/India moderated the session. He shared a compelling narrative around highly skewed participation of woman in power sector and emphasized the need for a collaborative and strategic approach towards reaching gender equality goals and building strong pillars to mitigate the challenges faced by women in the power sector.

The panel deliberated on the challenges and needs for strengthening the 3E’s for women professionals across verticals — Education, Entrepreneurship and Employment. It stressed on the need to ensure bigger women representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academic disciplines which has its implications for workforce development, to strengthening the next crop with skillsets essential to ensure influx of more women entrepreneurs into the workforce and finally to foster women employment, increasing gender equality, developing talent across utilities for enhancing and advancing careers of high potential women professionals.

The panel also stressed on having women at decision making/leadership positions across energy ecosystem. It will enable these gender equality champions from diverse verticals of energy sector and ages to reinforce their voice and networks and make commitments towards gender empowerment across the business value chain.

This dialogue aimed to further USAID’s commitment of having a more balanced access to opportunities to strengthen women participation across the spectrum. The panel agreed upon identifying the collaborative efforts required across power utilities, regulatory commissions, system operators and education and research institutions for a holistic development of the energy sector.