About the Gender Perspective Series The Gender Perspective series is an integral part of IRENA’s extensive research work on the effects of renewable energy deployment during energy transitions. The initial focus on employment creation and skills was expanded over time to cover other socio-economic elements such as gross domestic product, broader measures of welfare, local economic value creation, improved livelihoods and gender-differentiated impacts.
Introduction Economic empowerment is a particularly effective means for women to gain more control over their own lives. Yet women are still frequently ignored, undervalued and unpaid, preventing them from fulfilling their full economic potential. Without their full engagement, inclusive growth is unattainable. Yet gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge of all time (Ban, 2016), and the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have made matters worse.1 Gender equality is essential because it is an intrinsic human right and a core development objective.2 It is also a critical instrument for development. It increases productivity and improves the welfare of families and children while exerting positive effects on GDP per capita. Furthermore, climate change and gender equality are inextricably linked. Strategies and programmes to address the effects of climate change must include the participation, experiences and voices of women, not only because they are disproportionately affected by climate change, but also because they have valuable points of view, experience and knowledge to contribute to building community and national resilience (Williams, 2021). Energy sourced from renewables and efficiency in the use of that energy are the keys to decarbonising all end uses, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change (IRENA, 2022). The energy transition can boost economic development, create jobs and significantly improve welfare. In fact, the global renewable energy labour market is estimated to have grown to around 12.7 million jobs in 2021 and is estimated to nearly quadruple by 2050 if a holistic policy framework can be put in place (IRENA, 2021a; 2022; IRENA and ILO, 2022).
For a typical 50 MW solar PV facility, about 230 000 person-days are required for project planning, manufacturing, construction, installation, and operations and maintenance. That works out to a year’s work for 885 people for a single large-scale facility. Solar PV offers employment prospects for people with a wide range of experiences and occupations. There is demand for individuals with training in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with high-level qualifications in non-STEM fields (such as lawyers), as well as people with lower formal skills (such as construction) who could be leveraged from different industries with minimum training (see Figure I.1). The low threshold of skills required for many of these jobs opens doors to employment for many people.
Policy makers need then to match skills demand and facilitate the supply of an adequate workforce through active labour market policies; and when possible, create new job opportunities by leveraging capabilities of the female half of the workforce (IRENA, 2016).
The under-representation of women in the energy sector is well known. Men vastly outnumber women in the oil and gas industry, with women accounting for barely 22% of sectoral employment. Renewable energy does better than traditional energy, with women occupying 32% of jobs (IRENA, 2019). The takeaway is that renewable energy, as a younger and more dynamic sector, represents an opportunity for change. The expanding solar PV industry offers long-term and challenging career opportunities in both on-grid and off-grid contexts, with real potential for women as construction managers, technicians, electricians, plumbers, sales representatives, installers, human resource managers and marketers, among others (IRENA, 2016).
Women in the solar PV workforce This chapter discusses the main findings of IRENA’s online survey of nearly 300 organisations. It analyses women in the solar PV workforce by role, region, activity and organisation size. Interestingly, the results show no significant differences between off-grid and ongrid employment of women; therefore the results are considered similar for women in both contexts.
different sizes. Second, and more important, size is a crucial variable for the interpretation of responses from organisations, where each reply must be treated as though it represents several employees in the sector. The lack of information about the true size distribution of organisations working in solar PV remains a challenge for scaling up survey results to produce reliable population estimates, particularly with respect to the weight that should be given to replies from large organisations responding to the survey.
Challenges that limit women’s participation in the solar PV workforce omen face challenges in the workplace simply because of their gender. These challenges are usually interconnected and often subtle. Understanding what the barriers are, and the reasons behind them, is the first step to addressing them, in part through legislation and regulatory measures. Such measures cannot address all of the barriers, however, since some are rooted in everyday attitudes and behaviours deeply ingrained in cultural and social norms. These attitudes may not be held or expressed in knowingly discriminatory ways. Overall, 54% of the respondents to IRENA’s solar PV survey stated that barriers do exist. As in IRENA’s previous analyses of the entire renewable energy sector and the wind sub-sector, men seem to perceive fewer gender-related barriers than do women. In the solar PV sub-sector, two-thirds of female respondents recognised that they faced barriers, whereas only 40% of the male respondents agreed (see Figure 2.1). When men do not fully grasp the challenges that hold women back in their careers, they are likely less committed to fight for gender equity.
Practical measures to support women in solar PV Poor representation of women in solar PV can cause several problems. Among them is a skills shortage that is already in evidence, and which may bedevil the sector for an extended period of time. An expanding solar energy sector implies a growing demand for labour. But if women are not properly considered for job openings, the industry runs a severe risk of not having enough professionals to cover its needs. Therefore, not only does the sector need to consider women for its hiring needs, but it must create an attractive environment for them. Offering decent pay and adequate benefits is the first step to attracting talent to the sector. This section discusses the benefits presently available, according to the organisations and individuals who participated in the survey. There are several ways to increase women’s participation in solar PV.
Broader solutions to supporting women in the solar PV workforce Women face significant obstacles in gaining access to decent work. Measures to eliminate those barriers are critical. IRENA’s solar PV survey included a question on preferred solutions (see Figure 3.3). Additional measures that would be helpful for the solar PV sub-sector, and for the overall economy, are discussed below. A majority of the respondents simply mention the need for equal opportunity and no discrimination.
The ultimate goal: Diversifying the solar PV workforce There is no quick fix to improving women’s representation in solar PV, the renewable energy sector, or the economy at large. To make meaningful progress, the solar PV industry should implement measures to attract, retain and promote women.