Mentoring to power gender equality in wind energy

Madrid / 9 December 2020

IRENA's latest report Wind Energy: A Gender Perspective for 2020 again highlights the low presence of women in the wind sector, as reflected by the fact that only 21% of jobs in the industry are held by women.
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A year earlier, alarmed by this dramatic situation, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and the Global Women's Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET) decided to join forces to launch the Women in Wind mentoring project. The 12-month program is aimed at women working in the wind energy sector who come from or live in one of the 19 emerging countries in the industry (Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam). 

"We have focused on these regions because as emerging renewable energy markets, they typically do not have an international industry association with a certain level of resources or a women's organization representing the interests of women working in the wind sector," explains Joyce Lee, GWEC Policy and Operations Director.

The women's profile for this program goes beyond the stereotypes created, making it more inclusive. Participants must have been working in the wind sector for at least four years in any field, which means that this is not a program aimed at STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates, but can involve women working in any department, whether in the public or private sector. The program also does not establish an age range for participation.

"Most of our mentees are in their 20s or 30s, but if we had a mentee application from a woman in her 50s and she has limited professional experience, we would still welcome her. We have participants who are young students, and some who have family and children and are more high-profile, so we are flexible – many people can benefit from the support of a mentor," says Lee.

Only 8% of women in the sector hold top management positions


The "glass ceiling" is also a reality in the wind sector. According to the report Wind Energy: A Gender Perspective, only 8% of women in the sector hold top management positions. "In my experience, the hoops a woman ought to jump through, in order to be accepted by men as almost equal, are higher than the hoops to be jumped through by men for the same reason," explains Judit Szasz, Senior Project Manager Offshore at Siemens Gamesa and one of the mentors of this year’s edition of Women in Wind program.

The program includes activities aimed at enhancing the personal and professional development of the participants, such as a Study Tour in Europe, visiting institutions of interest and attending to several talks and conferences, seminars on industry issues, networking and a closing ceremony at the IRENA General Assembly in Abu Dhabi, among others. However, the virtual tutorials with the mentoring sessions are essential for the learning of the participants.

"During my mentoring, I share with my mentee my experiences, successes, mistakes and failures as I believe this is the best way to contribute to their development. We also talk about confidence as a key to success. Women feel that they have to be 200% certain of something to say “yes” to it. However, men may not necessarily have thorough knowledge of a matter, but they just jump into and say “yes” to it. This may be because of lack of enough confidence in ourselves," Judit laments.
First hand
Brazilian Luiza Termignoni, Senior Site Assessment Engineer based in Shanghai, China, was one of the participants in the first edition of Women in Wind. A friend told her about the call while she was on holidays and without a good internet connection so she ended up sending the application from the airport on the last day she could. "When I found out that I had been selected I was very happy, the truth is that I didn't expect it," said Luiza.

Her European Study Tour took place in Berlin and London and allowed her to visit numerous institutions and attend several conferences during a week. "In Berlin I had the opportunity to meet Elbia Gannoum, the president of the Brazilian Wind Energy Association and now also the Vice Chair Board of the Global Wind Energy Council. “She is an incredible woman who has done a great job in Brazil. Wind energy has grown very quickly there, and it was very interesting to be able to talk to her," explains Luiza enthusiastically.

On the way into the conference hall ©GWEC
For Luiza, the networking activity has been important during the program, either with her mentor, with other mentees or mentors, or with representatives of the wind energy sector, both men and women. "This type of program is essential because we currently see great differences between men and women representativeness in the wind sector, especially in senior positions and on boards of directors. Mentoring programs are important however, I hope that in the future we will not need them to be focused on gender equality. Ideally, we will not even think about the gender equality issue because people will be hired regardless of their gender, citizenship, race or age," says Luiza.

In her opinion, girls need female role models to help changing this scenario and unfortunately there are not many examples of women in top management positions. "When I meet someone who thinks that gender equality is not important, I like to ask them: how many female managers have you had as a boss in your career? I believe that letting them think about it themselves has greater impact.”, she says.

More information on the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program can be found here


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