Women Leadership is Essential to Achieve SDG7

Jem Porcaro
Senior Director, Energy Access
UN Foundation

This month we launched the results of the 2017 Energy Access Practitioner Network (EAPN) survey at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in Lisbon. This was the latest in a series of surveys the Practitioner Network has conducted since 2012 to take stock of the energy access sector. This survey also included, for the first time, a special feature on gender, that provides an in-depth look at the progress made and the challenges that still exist in advancing the energy-gender nexus.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 7 of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, it is of the utmost importance to promote greater gender inclusion and achieve gender equality within energy access efforts. Our survey findings show some encouraging trends in this regard. The survey found, for example, that 40% of surveyed enterprises are either owned or led by a woman, up from 30% from the previous year. This highlights the increasing role of women in shaping and leading the sector. Despite this progress, however, women still struggle to fill important decision-making roles within enterprises, as shown in Figure 1 below. As pointed out by Alexie Seller, CEO of Pollinate Energy, at the launch of the survey results in Lisbon, we need to be proactive when it comes to helping women grow professionally and take on the responsibilities of higher-level management positions.

Figure 1: Organizational roles by gender (Source: EAPN Survey 2017)

Our survey findings also revealed that more than 50% of surveyed organizations indicated that women were involved in the overall design of their products and services. While there are organizations that are increasingly making efforts to try to address this disparity, much remains to be done to ensure women’s participation in product design. As Alexie said, “not having women as a primary design influence for a cookstove is like designing a laptop with someone who has never used a computer before”. Focus on women-centric distribution models has led to many women becoming social leaders, as well evidenced by enterprises such as Solar Sister, Empowered Generation, Energy 4 Impact, to name a few. It would be great to build similar evidence and models to strengthen the business case for involving women in this critical part of the product value chain.

For more such interesting findings, download the survey brochure here and follow our social media trail here.  For those of you who were unable to join us in person, you can watch the survey launch video here.