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Engendering Utilities: Improving Gender Diversity in Power Sector Utilities

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USAID
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ENGENDERING UTILITIES: IMPROVING GENDER DIVERSITY IN POWER SECTOR UTILITIES

Women have traditionally been under-represented in the energy sector; they are often excluded from many power sector employment opportunities. At the same time, there is a lack of empirical research documenting the roles of women in the energy sector employment. Studies in other business sectors suggest that including more women in the workforce has a positive impact on productivity and the bottom line. Therefore, the development hypothesis for this study suggests that by improving labor market participation by women and mitigating gender disparities throughout a company’s human resources practices, power sector utilities can increase operational efficiencies that will ultimately bring greater economic value to utilities companies. This study, the first of its kind, endeavors to better understand the role of women within electric power distribution companies (DISCOs) and the gender disparities in this segment of the energy sector. Based on data from 14 utilities in Eastern Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, we find wide variations in gender-based employment practices and outcomes. Women’s employment within power distribution utilities in the sample averages 13 percent of the workforce, with a range from less than 1 percent in Pakistan to more than 30 percent in Ukraine. From our sample, it is clear that women work at all management levels and in all employment categories in DISCOs, including technical field operations, engineering, finance, regulatory compliance, planning, customer service, human resources (HR), and information technology (IT) operations. 

The research phase of the program, summarized in this report, is expected to help development professionals better understand how electricity utilities can increase the labor market participation of women in the energy sector.  The data facilitate the creation of company-specific interventions to improve women’s career prospects while improving the quality and cost of electricity services. The development hypothesis grounding this policy work suggests that mitigating gender disparities can increase operational efficiencies that will ultimately bring greater value to utility companies. This has the potential to result in a positive feedback loop, where improvements in gender equality help change norms and expectations on gender, which ultimately allows women to participate in all aspects of the energy sector. This will likely improve the efficiency and operations of DISCOs. DISCOs are often among the largest, if not the largest, employer in a locality; therefore the economic improvement of DISCOs and of women’s employment in them, may also result in improved societal development

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