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Local renewables sector steps up gender diversity efforts

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SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli.
SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli.

South Africa’s renewable energy industry is making efforts to promote gender diversity in the bourgeoning sector.

The industry says a decade into SA’s renewable energy sector’s existence, it has become apparent it is still lagging in sufficient gender diversity.

Hence the industry is taking steps to adjust and improve the levels of gender representation, at all levels, with the launch of its Gender Diversity Working Group.

This sector working group will mainstream gender issues within the renewable energy industry by creating a platform and framework that will actively address gender diversity matters within the energy sector, holding dialogues around areas of inadequate representation.

Wind and solar collaboration

This new renewable energy industry working group is a collaboration between the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) and the solar PV counterpart association, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).

Both organisations say they recognise the need to address gender diversity issues from a broader renewable energy industry perspective.

Additionally, the collaboration includes WE Connect, a non-profit organisation focusing on women empowerment within the renewable energy sector, with the intention of maximising capacity and increasing the programme’s impact by incorporating gender coaching and mentorship.

“Gender diversity means a fair gender representation across all spheres of our industry. A 2020 report by IRENA [International Renewable Energy Agency] and the Women in Wind Global Leadership Programme shows that women represent only 21% of the global wind energy workforce and only 8% of its senior management,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

“Recognising that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in the wind energy sector is as much a South African challenge as it is a global challenge, we launched a commitment statement in 2018, which commits members of the association to address, amongst other things, issues of gender equality in the sector.”

SAPVIA COO Niveshen Govender adds: “Diversity in the workplace is vital for the future success of every organisation. Countless studies have shown the positive effects gender diversity can have in every industry and we must work together to ensure South Africa’s renewables sector is truly reflective of the society in which we operate.

“As a sector, our ambition is to deliver a just transition and this must include the upliftment and inclusion of all genders. This is not just because it is the right thing to do – it also makes commercial sense. From widening the talent pool to enhancing collaboration, improving retention, recruitment and reputation, the payback of an inclusive workplace has never been clearer.

“There could not be a more fitting time than International Women’s Day to bring together this working group. The onus is, of course, on each of us as individuals to challenge the status quo; however, with this group, we can collectively take proactive steps to driving the change that is so needed in our sector to create a more balanced workforce across the renewables industry,” Govender says.

Creating female leadership

The Gender Diversity Working Group Programme is expected to include a Leadership Acceleration Programme, which will identify women with leadership potential and place them on an accelerator programme to help bridge the female leadership gap in the renewable energy sector.

This is in addition to the Coaching and Mentorship Programme, led by WE Connect, which will pair mentors and mentees, and assist them to meet certain objectives.

“Diversity in thought will contribute positively to the thriving and growing renewable energy industry. Through mentorship, the industry can empower women to bridge the gap between male and female perspectives on equality and promote the concept of giving back,” says Karen de Bruyn, founder of WE Connect.

Looking beyond the professional space, the programme will also include a “Business Opportunities for Women” initiative, to provide access for women in entrepreneurship activities in the sector and support women who are establishing themselves as entrepreneurs.

SAWEA and SAPVIA point out that the working group also aims to achieve the following: gender diversity performance reporting, which will include a scoring matrix; dialogues and events, as discussion platforms to address common challenges and shared solutions on gender issues; and the launch of a renewable energy industry gender diversity charter – in line with the industry commitment statement.

“Simply put, the ultimate target is to see women in the sector having access to and being considered for all opportunities,” concludes Ntuli.

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