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10th Mar 2023

Women in Power | Shaping the future of the P&I Sector in Africa

Back in 2017 at the Africa Energy Forum in Copenhagen, it struck me that among all the conference hall conversations, break-out sessions and hushed negotiations behind closed doors, no one seemed to be addressing one key topic – the need for human capital to bring complex power ventures to fruition.

Filed under: Blog Articles

Tim Beckh
10th Mar 2023

It was clear then that Africa remained an active market for investors and developers even if the number of major projects reaching financial close in that year could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

What was less obvious or discussed was how these organisations were to identify, attract and develop the talent to bring these projects to reality and what new skills these leaders would need as a prerequisite.

People skills, cross cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence

Fast forward half a decade, and we are seeing a clear shift in the nature of the industry characterised by a move away from large scale IPP development to a more decentralised energy model. This has resulted in many new entrants entering the market to take advantage of opportunity created by the failings of national power infrastructure programmes, inertia in regulatory regimes and by the catalytic potential of renewable energy technologies. A new breed of CEO has emerged -more entrepreneurial, opportunistic and, in some cases, debutants in the energy industry.

No longer is it the default to look for a CEO or Head of Business Development among the European and American companies that have dominated power development in Africa over the past twenty years. Companies are casting their nets closer to home and, in some cases, are building their teams from both within and outside of the power sector.

With this shift we’ve witnessed a broadening of the candidate pool, paving the way for positive strides in greater diversity, equality and inclusion. However, with International Women’s Day celebrated around the world this month, I am once again struck by an omission in what we’re seeing and hearing - there are not enough women in the power sector and it is suffering as a result.

Women in power

The energy sector remains one of the least gender diverse sectors in the global workforce, and closing this gender gap will be vital to its ongoing success.

Although women currently account for 39% of the global labour force, representation sits at a mere 22% in the traditional energy sector and 32% in the renewable energy sector (Source: For management levels the numbers are even lower.

Women are underrepresented in leadership roles across the power sector, and this is especially true in Africa. The barriers women face in the energy sector are similar to those faced elsewhere in the economy. However, the challenges of the energy sector are more pressing since the sector is going through a process of transformation; clean energy transitions will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and necessitate innovative thinking, financing models, joint venture structures and delivery mechanisms.

Barriers to entry for women not only limit the pool of potential leaders, but it also perpetuates an unequal and unbalanced work environment. Moreover, research has shown that companies with gender-diverse leadership perform better and are more innovative, so addressing this issue is not just a matter of fairness, but also of good business sense.

To tackle the issue of gender equality and representation, it is crucial to create an environment that supports and encourages women to pursue careers in the power sector. This includes providing equal pay, opportunities for professional development and flexible working arrangements, and promoting a culture that values diversity and inclusion. Companies can also support initiatives that encourage young girls to pursue careers in STEM fields and provide mentorship programs to help women advance in their careers. Ensuring there are senior female role models at executive and Board level, encourages female recruitment and retention and, in turn, drives improved female friendly working environments and policies.

By creating a culture that supports and encourages women to pursue careers in the power sector, we can ensure that the sector is able to attract and retain the best talent and create an environment that promotes innovation and success.

Human capital will shape the future of the sector

Human capital will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the future of the African power sector. As the sector evolves, it is important that we address the issue of gender inequality and work towards creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment. It is just good business sense.

It’s important for organisations to recognise and address any unconscious biases that may exist within the workplace. This can be done by conducting regular training sessions for employees and creating a system for reporting and addressing instances of gender discrimination.

Organisations can also adopt a gender quota system, where a certain percentage of leadership positions must be held by women, to help ensure equal representation in the workplace. Increasing numbers of our clients insist on notable female representation on recruitment shortlists. Organisations must take concrete steps towards gender mainstreaming, which involves creating a workplace culture that is inclusive and equal, recognising and valuing gender differences. This approach is crucial in providing women with opportunities to showcase their skills without perpetuating gender inequalities or stereotypes.

Moreover, it is important we recognise the role of governments in addressing gender inequality in the power sector too. Governments can create policies and regulations that promote gender equality and provide funding for initiatives aimed at encouraging women to pursue careers in the sector. They can also encourage the formation of industry-wide partnerships and collaborations that aim to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

A commitment to equality

While the issue of gender inequality is a significant one, it is by no means limited to the power sector. In fact, it is a systemic issue that affects many industries, and it is only through a concerted effort from all sectors of society that meaningful progress can be made. This requires not only the commitment of organisations, but also individuals and governments, to work together towards creating a more equal and just society.

The African power sector has the potential to become a leader in driving sustainable and inclusive growth in the region. To achieve this goal, it is crucial that the sector addresses the issue of gender inequality and creates an environment that supports and encourages the growth and success of all individuals, regardless of gender. By doing so, the sector will be able to attract and retain the best talent and create a work environment that promotes innovation and success for all.

So, as the African power sector moves into the next phase of its evolution and a new mix of skills, expectations and hopes emerges, perhaps it’s time to address this topic and put the question of human capital and in particular gender equality, squarely on the conference agenda for the African Energy Forum 2023.

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