Back to top

Why RHC Sector needs more women?

A Capacity Building Session in the framework of W4RES

In an age in which issues of diversity and gender equality are at the forefront of conversations in society W4RES set the ambitious goal to to support the uptake of renewable energy in heating and cooling (RHC) by leveraging the potential of women as agents of change. W4RES is one of the 7 European flagship projects financed by the HORIZON 2020 program that have since November 2020 united 12 public-private organizations, research actors and NGOs  with key players of the energy market in eight countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway and Slovakia) in passionate work to understand the future of energy demand and its policy implications with special focus on women in renewable energy systems and in heating and cooling in specific.

The 31st of August the European Centre for Women and Technology acting as the Norwegian Regional Hub representative in W4RES shared the collective experiences and outcomes of the project and facilitated an interactive discussion between the 19 participants about strengthening the engagement of women in Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and Heating & Cooling technologies in Norway and in the Nordics.

Following the brief presentation of W4RES by Eva Fabry, Director of ECWT, representatives of Nordic Energy Research and the Nordic Energy Equality Network presented the state of the art in regard to gender diversity and empowerment of women for an inclusive and equal energy future. They pointed out that the Nordic region is often praised for equality and inclusion, but the energy segment seems to fall behind.

Sofia Elamson, Advisor, NER stressed that “The concept of sustainability is not just a one-sided technical or economical one – it must include the aspects of society and ecology too. Otherwise solutions might fail to become sustainable. Improving gender equality lies at the core of the socially sustainable future.

During the workshop 7 action areas were identified as key for the Norwegian energy sector:

  • Encourage and support women in energy sector
  • Make gender diversity a priority: create gender indicators for the RHC sector, monitor, provide mentoring and reverse mentoring
  • Encourage development at all levels
  • Make-work-life balance a priority
  • Remove the gender pay-gap
  • Increase diversity in hiring
  • Showcase role models

The ideas presented by NEEN members included initiatives targeting public-private sector and academia:

Public sector. The funding authorities should start programs for young researchers to improve the chances for women to gain more experience in the field. They should support networks that promote diversity and gender equality, as women usually lack the very essential business networks that are crucial for recruitment into managerial positions.  All project groups should be diversified and proportionally aim at having a balance in terms of project leaders. Apart from large scale projects also smaller projects for experimentation should be approved as this will improve the chances for diversity within the projects.

Private sector. It was recommended that the corporate sector creates sponsorships to increase diversity. They should demand more equal gender composition of conferences, panels, workshops, seminars etc. that they participate in and contribute to, both as organizers and as sponsors.  Energy companies need to realize that diversity is crucial to be part of the energy race, and as such, a smart business decision. A strategy for gender equality and diversity is an important tool to succeed, and a demand for such a strategy should also extend to include their suppliers.

Academia. The academic sector needs to rethink their branding of all research areas involved in multidisciplinary energy research and considerably increase the role of women in the energy transition. By showing how energy research contribute to a wider perspective of society and combating climate change, the field will become accessible and relevant to a wider set of participants.

In regard to the Gender Perspective on Green Jobs in Norway and the Nordics the core message conveyed was that women as a group are more interested in climate issues and sustainable development than men as a group, which is reflected in food consumption and efforts to recycle or travel with reduced climate impact, but also in their engagement in social movements related to climate change. However, gender norms have a greater explanatory value than gender per se as a variable. Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Researcher, NIFU pointed out that there is a huge risk that the green transition risks placing additional burdens on women as a group in the form of more unpaid work. In order to achieve socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development, it is therefore necessary to design interventions that will challenge the gender labelling that associates technology with masculinity and care with femininity.

Conclusions by Hanne Kauko, Senior Researcher SINTEF Energi emphasized  that studies of climate policies in different countries as well as involvement of women in renewable energy systems show that when interventions are largely gender-blind in their design, they have negative consequences for gender equality and ultimately also a negative impact on the effective implementation of the green transition.

The W4RES project´s Final Conference “Re-Energizing Europe” will take place in Brussels in the framework of the two day mega event the 24-25th of October 2023, where the 7 EU funded projects and over 100 organizations will present their three years research findings and policy recommendations to EU policy and decision makers in the renewables and energy market uptake fields, complemented with poster sessions a a field visit to a Belgian energy community.