The 2021 Global Gender Gap Index released earlier this year by the World Economic Forum placed Kenya at position 95 among 156 countries. Though a 22-point drop from 2006, when it was ranked 73rd in the inaugural ranking, it was an improvement from 109th last year.
And compared to other African countries, Kenya scored considerably well on social and economic dimensions but not as highly on empowerment and representation. That is despite the “Two-Thirds Gender Rule” constitutional requirement, that representation of either gender must not exceed two-thirds in appointed and elective public positions.
The African Development Bank and Energia country brief on gender and energy shows 35 per cent of staff and 15 per cent of technical leadership position holders at the Ministry of Energy headquarters are women. All state corporations in the energy sector have a good representation of women at departmental head and manager levels.
For example, a gender mainstreaming programme at Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) , Pink Energy — which focuses on personal development and empowerment, creating a conducive working environment and creating gender awareness in the public utility — won the Ministry of Public Service and Gender annual trailblazer award on this year’s International Women’s Day. A recent organisational health survey by KPMG also revealed an impressive 70 per cent score where KenGen employees felt more motivated thanks to such initiatives.
In November 2019, the Energy ministry unveiled a gender policy that seeks to bolster the country’s effort towards raising the level of gender awareness, changing attitudes and inculcating an engendered work culture in the energy sector. The blueprint document also focuses on integration of gender and serves to strengthen institutional capacities for gender mainstreaming as the foundation for gender-sensitive project formulation, implementation and impact evaluation of energy projects.
It also provides a framework for strengthening institutional frameworks for employment of women in energy, ensuring compliance with the Constitution on gender, increasing awareness on gender in the sector and integrating gender in programmes.
Taking deliberate steps
Importantly, energy sector players are taking deliberate steps to increase the proportion of women in technical roles. It is worth noting that, globally, the energy sector remains one of the least gender-diverse: Despite making up 48 per cent of the world workforce, women account for only 22 per cent and even lower in management levels.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) report, “Energy and gender: A critical issue in energy sector employment and energy access”, says the barriers women face in the sector are similar to those that they face elsewhere in the economy. This forms the basis for the need to empower women by facilitating professional growth. But to advance women’s careers, it is important to improve access to employment and financial resources while investing in their human and social capital through education, skills development and creation of professional networks.
There is progress towards gender empowerment and mainstreaming in the energy sector nonetheless. On the global front, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) has initiated the Engendering Utilities Program under its Power Africa Initiative. The key activity under the US government’s new Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) targets 50 million women by 2025. The three W-GDP pillars focus on women prospering in the workforce, succeeding as entrepreneurs and being enabled in the economy.
KenGen participates in the programme, which, among other aspects, is designed to build the capacity of women engineers and technicians, increasing their productivity in a male-dominated field as well as their leadership potential. The six-month programme incorporates pre- and post-programme assessments, a seven week course and four months of change management coaching.
There is a need for well-thought out policies and programmes in educating, hiring, retaining and promoting women.
Mrs Maalu is the director, corporate and regulatory services, KenGen PLC, and patron of its Pink Energy initiative. [email protected]