Women are under-represented globally in sectors such as construction, renewable energy, manufacturing, and public transportation that are crucial to the green economy
As per the Energy Resources Institute (TERI) and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) 2012–13 report, women face difficulty in accessing livelihoods in the renewable-energy sector in India. The UN Women 2014 report also speaks the same; it says women are under-represented globally in sectors such as construction, renewable energy, manufacturing, and public transportation that are crucial to the green economy. Moreover, it highlights that in the energy sector, women comprise less than 6 percent of technical staff and less than 1 percent of top managers.
Thus, if no proactive steps are taken to address gender equity in the energy sector, the green economy may have same consequences as the Green Revolution; boosting the economy at the cost of marginalizing women and making them more vulnerable to poverty.
Findings reveal that although access to technology and employment in the energy sector is limited, there is tremendous potential to create livelihoods for women at all levels. Broader findings indicate that women can gain optimal traction from employment in the renewable energy sector only if there are wider socially progressive policies in place, including state intervention to create a robust social welfare infrastructure and accessible, high-quality, public services.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Employment opportunities in India’s renewable energy sector will almost double by 2022. The report also noted that renewable energy employment continues to shift towards Asian countries, which together accounted for 62 percent of jobs in 2016, as compared to 50 percent in 2013.
Access to energy for women also results in positive gains for the ecosystem. For example, the electrification of rural communities can result in a 9 percentage point increase in female employment, and a staggering 23 percent increase in the probability of rural women working outside the home. According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, empowering women to participate in India’s economy on an equal basis with men would add $3 trillion to the nation’s economy by 2025.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog, a Maharashtra-based non-profit organization, is helping 1,010 women entrepreneurs in the villages of Maharashtra and Bihar by helping them in running successful businesses of selling solar appliances to rural households. These 1,010 women entrepreneurs are now sustaining rural communities to take productive steps to improve the quality of the environment, adopt clean energy products and services, recharge community water sources and promote agricultural best practices in order to improve their long-term resilience to climate change.
Although the solar industry has made efforts in the recent years to increase the number of women employed in this sector, the gender ratio still remains skewed. The Solar Foundation’s report points out that in 2013, women only made up 18.7 percent of all solar workers; however, in 2016, that number increased to merely 28 percent. A part of the reason for this skewed ratio is the gender stereotype attached to these jobs. People are unaware of the fact that working in solar involves a lot more than simply putting panels on roofs. The solar industry also employs professionals with skills in sales and distribution, order booking, timely supply and services of the product, research and development, as well as installation and maintenance of solar panels.
Women in the solar sector continue to face the challenge of finding permanent employment along with a secure career. In addition to creating opportunities for women in technology installation, repair, dissemination, awareness generation, and marketing, there is a growing need within the energy sector to involve women in the formal engineering aspects of technology design and innovation. The dominance of male engineers and technical designers often results in larger numbers of technologies failing to address important issues for women users.
The other factor leading to the gender gap in the solar industry is the disparity in wages. The disparity existing between men and women regarding the pay scale is an unfortunate affair. The discussion on whether how fast, or even whether, that gap is closing always remains debatable.
The state needs to put in place adequate social security measures to protect against illness, maternity, old age, job losses, and other risks to well-being. Poor women can benefit from green initiatives only if there are wider socially progressive policies in place, including robust social-welfare programs, quality public services accessible to all, income and wealth redistribution, and all forms of state, collective, and cooperative ownership.
As we call on governments across the world to “Step It Up” for gender equality, this initiative by the Union government will set a standard for many other countries, and accelerate the momentum towards an equal world, a Planet 50-50, by the year 2030.
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