By Carolyne Gathuru

Over the past one year and in the spirit of celebrating Energy as an everyday subject rather than as a subject of focus in October during the World Energy Day Celebrations, a series of Energy Professional Round Tables were held with speakers hailing from all over the globe. These forums brought together energy professionals from all sectors and positions, as well as energy enthusiasts both from the technical and non-technical divide.

Each Round Table held monthly hosted speakers either in presentation or panel format, with a wide range of topics discussed including: The effect of Covid-19 on the energy sector; emerging considerations for the energy sector in Africa whilst charting out the new normal; optimizing energy efficiency and renewable energy for commercial and industrial clients; the future of energy in Africa – exploring trends, skills, technology and innovation; Innovation for change leading energy transformation in Africa – sustainable buildings, energy efficiency and climate change; and energy monitoring and Analytics. All selected as areas of focus from emerging issues in the energy sector as well as feedback from participants on subjects of interest.

What is of specific interest as well, is that the seven round tables hosted a total of 16 speakers from different countries and backgrounds, and that of the 16 speakers, 5 were women and 11 were men.

During the actual World Energy Day Conference 2020 that served as a convergence forum for energy sector players and interested parties, a raft of speakers graced the occasion from across the globe representing both the public and private sectors. The conference theme – The Future of Energy in Africa: Innovation| Efficiency| Interoperability – provided a blank canvas upon which various energy related discussions were held including: the energy and climate change nexus and possibilities for change; global and local partnerships for energy transformation; the role of policy in driving the energy revolution in the continent; financing clean energy and energy efficiency projects; big data and data analysis for  innovation and sustainable mobility; and emerging energy challenges for development of actionable solutions. The World Energy Day 2020 conference was attended by 314 delegates from around the world and the discussions were both enlightening and stimulating in equal measure. 

What is even more interesting is that the conference also hosted a total of 16 speakers all from different countries and backgrounds of whom 7 were women and 9 were men – a slight increase from the earlier Round Table outcome.

The rationale for these states may be two pronged based on possible hypothesis that:

  1. There exists a much bigger pool of gentlemen subject matter experts who make for much sought after energy professional speakers for presentations at energy conferences
  2. The pool of lady energy experts with the professional and technical knowledge and expertise have not branded themselves sufficiently as speakers to enable conference organizes seek them out

Whether it is one or two or both, the current skew needs to be displaced through purposeful effort. The International Energy Agency’s Energy and gender report 2020, indicates that “Gender remains a critical issue in energy sector employment and energy access. The energy sector remains one of the least gender diverse sectors and closing this gender gap will be vital as women are key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. A clean energy transition will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and greater participation from a diverse talent pool.”

Efforts and activities towards a gender shift in the energy sector are gaining ground and it will require continued and concerted effort to ensure that the playing field is levelled, especially from a mindset perspective. STEM programmes need to be demystified in the continent and uptake encouraged from all genders right from kindergarten through university and post graduate energy programmes. 

As planning for the World Energy Day 2021 activities kick off in earnest, it would be intriguing to revisit the outcome and chart the gender plot to review anticipated positive outcomes in the gender occupation in the overall programme.