Insights into Editorial: Creating jobs for women in the renewable energy sector
India can increase its GDP by up to 60% by 2025 by enabling more women to participate in its workforce, a 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute had stated.
However, social and cultural constraints can prevent this from becoming a reality. Many women who work outside home still have primary household and parenting responsibilities that need to be balanced with their work life.
Studies estimate that India’s ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy (RE) by 2022 could create 3,30,000 jobs in the wind and solar energy sectors alone. These opportunities can provide better salaries and health-care benefits, skilling and training opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for women and their families by supporting the inclusion of more women in this growing sector.
Creating non-farm jobs to absorb this work force over the next decade will no doubt require a change in thought process about the role of women in society and the economy.
Huge investments will be needed in upskilling and educating women and the girl child, financial inclusion of women, encouraging women entrepreneurs, strengthening legal provisions for safety and security of women. But more than anything else it will require creating an abundance of new jobs within the formal sector and lowering barriers to job creation.
Increased availability of stable-wage jobs for women is critical to preventing their socio-economic exploitation, improving their quality of life, enhancing a woman’s control over household decision-making and enabling her to lead a life of dignity.
Low participation of women:
The problem and the opportunity are both clear. According to the World Bank, more than 270 million Indians live in poverty. Further, studies by the International Energy Agency, an autonomous intergovernmental organisation, show that about 240 million people lack basic electricity services.
The government has committed to installing 175 GW of RE by 2022. Several of these installations will be in rural areas, where a large number of the poor live. The new RE projects be planned in a manner that also creates good quality jobs for women in these areas.
Renewable Energy Industry:
Currently, India’s RE industry sector, as with other sectors, has low participation of women. India ranks a poor 120 among 131 countries on female labour force participation, according to World Bank data. A majority of women currently employed in the RE sector work at project sites, doing civil masonry work, which is temporary and labour-intensive with little potential for future growth. Moreover, the working conditions on many sites are not always suitable for women as they are devoid of safety and support systems.
Where there is a need for more skilled or semi-skilled labour, fewer women can respond due to existing barriers to formal education and training.
Technical training institutes do not admit applicants who have not graduated Class 12. And even where they meet the prerequisite for admission into training institutes, the institutes tend to be located in towns and cities, making it difficult for rural women to effectively participate, especially when they are also expected to carry out other household responsibilities.
Consequently, there are very few women in production, facilities, and operations and maintenance roles in the RE sector.
Women and Sustainable Energy:
Sustainable energy is a development enabler: it would be impossible to achieve any of the SDGs without improving the quality and reach of energy services in the developing world.
Because the reduction of the carbon intensity of energy is imperative in the fight against climate change, the sector also plays a central role in climate change mitigation. Women and girls are predominantly responsible for the bulk of household work, access to energy makes a significant diﬀerence to their health and well-being.
While access to energy services would not necessarily guarantee gender equality, it would go a long way in relieving women and girls of the drudgery associated
with their daily tasks and providing them time for income-generating opportunities and education.
Women and Household Energy:
Women have more sustainable consumption choices and, as household energy managers, tend to have a bigger say in household energy decisions.
Besides its commonplace use for everyday household needs (such as lighting, cooking and heating), energy helps catalyse national development and advance social progress by improving health, education, access to clean water and other essential services.
Thus, from the standpoint of consumption, the design, production, distribution and sales of sustainable energy technologies (for example, clean cooking stoves
and lighting devices) would benefit from having women contribute to shaping the clean energy value chain.
Their position in society equips them with an understanding of the cultural and community context, which is useful for introducing behavioural change with regard to energy consumption at the
The study recommended that private sector leaders should build capacity among unskilled and semi-skilled workers to ensure sustainability of renewable energy projects and give rural communities a sense of ownership in off-grid projects.
It further said government officials should create public training programmes that prepare the poor and less educated people— those typically shut out from training institutes and full-time positions – for employment in the clean energy sector.
Women in Solar Energy (WISE) in USA was started by solar industry veteran Kristen Nicole who witnessed first-hand the impact of a lack of diversity in the solar energy industry.
After working closely at the intersection of the utility, financial and construction industries and seeing how the confluence of the cultures of these industries impacted the overall solar industry culture, Kristen saw a gap between the environmentally-driven solar industry.
Women in Solar Energy is the networking centre point of the solar energy industry, united towards a common goal of advancing women in all aspects of the solar energy industry and promoting diversity and forward thinking business practices in our community. We do this through education, capacity building, advocacy, strategic partnerships, networking and events.
WISE was founded on the idea that the collective power of the female community is massive, and if we can all work together, the end result can be revolutionary.
What will it take for women from poorer and rural communities to access jobs in the RE sector?
In a recent study found that jobs in the RE sector can impact poverty, provided several “tweaks” are made to the existing systems. Particularly with the growth of the decentralised RE and off-grid energy sector, there is significant potential to include local women in the workforce.
Overall, the study concluded that if the government, clean energy enterprises, training institutes and civil society work together to implement these “tweaks”, India could create good-quality employment opportunities that can support the inclusion of more women. But such interventions need to be designed with women at the centre and not as an afterthought.
Training institutes could reduce the bar on entry, allowing for less formally educated women to learn new skills and receive training. Training should be customised to respect specific needs like location, hours of engagement, safety and sanitation.
Mobile training modules that can cater to small groups of women in remote areas can be developed. Training institutes and civil society organisations should collaborate and strengthen connections with clean energy enterprises to help trained women secure employment.
This sensitisation to women’s specific needs can help increase participation of women in the RE workforce. If the public and private sectors come together to bring such jobs to women, particularly in poorer communities, India’s transition to clean energy could also improve the quality of life for women and their families.
It also said training institutes and civil society organization leaders should “target women and tailor skill-building programs to their specific needs, including location, hours, safety and sanitation”.