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Women’s Participation in the Energy Sector - Büşra Selin Kartal

Energy is an area that concerns all living things globally, so everyone should have a say. Despite this, although the number of women in the energy sector continues to increase, gender equality is still not achieved. While the energy types in the world are changing and the green transition is trying to be increased, the low participation of women in this important sector is a major shortcoming. There are many reasons for this: both for women and the sector.

Unfortunately, there is still a wide wage disparity in the industry. It is also the case in countries classified as democratic. While in 2016, the median salary of a male employee in the energy sector in the USA was $75,800, while the controlled female wage was $70,200 and the uncontrolled female wage was $58,500. Also, for 2022 data relative to 1$ earned by men, while uncontrolled female wage is 0.88$, the controlled female wage is 0.98$. Although there are some improvements, there is still a wage disparity between men and women. According to 2020 data, women working in the oil and gas industry in the UK are paid 22% less than men working in the same job. In addition, according to 2018 data in Canada, which has energy and mining companies in many parts of the world, women's wages are 6.7% less than men in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sectors. Employees cannot be expected to be highly motivated in sectors with high wage inequality.

Another problem is the low participation of women in the sector. In particular, it is seen that the number of senior officials is low, and the inability of people to be promoted is another motivation-reducing reason. Even though women have the same academic qualifications as men, they are less employed in senior positions. The International Energy Agency (IEA)'s study of 2,500 firms found that only 13.9% of high-ranking posts were women. While it is stated in the same study that women are represented more in large international companies, this is explained by the constant examination of investors due to their high demands on large companies. Large companies share publicly available reports on the environment, women's rights, diversity, and employee rights. This transparency-providing application also enables companies to self-criticize and improve themselves on the issues they lag, perhaps to avoid reaction from the public or as a PR tool. It is possible to say that women are represented more in companies that develop their policies in this direction.

Women's employment, especially in jobs requiring heavy industry, is lower than that of men. This leads us to think that women do not have a place in sectors such as energy. However, women's employment in energy is not limited to heavy industry. When looking at the other fields, Business administration, Economics, Accounting, Finance, all majors in engineering, computer science, political science, geology, chemistry, etc., many women who are graduates of fields such as these can work in the energy sector in these fields. Perhaps one of the most important problems here is that women are not informed about their roles in the sector in this period when stereotypical gender roles are being tried to be destroyed. Therefore, women who want to work in these sectors start 1-0 behind due to stereotypes.

After these major shortcomings of the industry, there are barriers created by cultural and social norms, which are a bigger problem. In an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) study on the renewable energy sector, 72% of the answers are that cultural and social norms are one of the three biggest restraints. In addition, vocational education given to women is also at a low level. 41% of people see the absence of gender-specific training opportunities as a barrier. It can be said that women are mostly affected by these norms and social orientations. They can include areas considered more socially useful in their career choices. Again, according to IRENA reports, the number of female students in STEM fields is low. Accordingly, 45% of women working in the renewable energy sector work in managerial positions, while 28% work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

People's preference for the sector can be increased by the importance given by the state to the energy sector, and accordingly, by increasing information and employment, and by the presence of government incentives. As a country with a low level of democracy, Russia is a good indicator that women's participation can be increased. Russia has the highest participation of women in energy companies, with 23.1%. The list continues with Australia and United Kingdom at 15.5%. In addition, female employment in the energy sector in Russia is higher than in the non-energy sectors. Since the energy sector is state-based in many countries and is managed by the state, governments need to take steps to support women's employment in the sector.

There are good opportunities for women, especially in renewable energy. Women have also initiated many entrepreneurial projects for alternative energy sources. However, women make up 32% of the world in these fields. Despite the many problems they face in the sector, women continue to increase their numbers, but some solutions can be offered to remove these problems. First of all, starting from the above problems, efforts should be made to eliminate the wage inequality in the sector. It would be better for states to regulate employee rights regardless of gender to eliminate employee inequality. Because, as stated, the energy sector is one of the sectors in which the states are closely involved. There are also situations where social norms that society needs to stop creating barriers to women. Although this is time-consuming in our societies, employing women in jobs other than the imposed roles and giving them responsibility will improve women's rights globally. In addition, women must take the energy sector out of obscurity and become knowledgeable about the sector. For this, promotions can be made in schools during the students' career and school preference periods. Women can be brought into the sector by providing more inclusive vocational training for women, incentive programs, and supporting women entrepreneurs. In addition, listening to the problems experienced by women currently working in the sector and carrying out improvement works will increase the number of women by recommending the sector to each other. (These can be problems such as gender-based mobbing, not being preferred, not being promoted, verbal, physical, psychological violence, and intimidation.)

As women's participation in the business world increases, their number will also increase in the energy sector. Improving women's working conditions and participation in the energy sector is a great opportunity for both countries and energy companies. It should not be forgotten that the energy sectors are in important positions in countries where women participate more.


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