What opportunity does the transition in the energy sector offer to empower women in the world of work? The UN Working Group’s meeting in Geneva

On June 13, the UN Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice met in Geneva. This Working Group was initiated in September 2010 during the 15th session of the Human Rights Council (resolution 15/23, latest renewal in 2016 through resolution 32/4) as a result of the findings that in every country, being a woman still is associated with significant disadvantages resulting from discriminatory laws and practices. Therefore, the working group focuses on developing a dialogue and cooperating with various institutions, systems and organizations to identify, promote and exchange views on best practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The support of initiatives to address multiple forms of gender discrimination when implementing human rights treaties and commitments is one of its further mandates. Apart from that, the Working Group is assigned to submit and report to the Human Rights Council on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, including the results, ideas and approaches acquired through the dialogues and exchanges.

This June’s meeting was especially focused on informing the 2020 Human Rights Council Report. As gender advisor, Anke Stock from our WECF team in Germany was invited to provide input to the consultation on the topic of emerging issues and opportunities for women in the world of work, focusing on the questions:

  1. What measures are necessary to ensure that women benefit equally in the world of work from the transition to sustainability?
  2. What are promising practices to ensure that green jobs do not replicate existing gender inequalities in other sectors?

In her talk, she highlighted, that male engineers are overrepresented in the technical posts in the energy sector (77.9%), while women make up 22.1% of the energy sector workforce usually in administrative positions with limited decision-making power. She stated, that transition in the energy sector does provide the opportunity to involve more citizens and therefore more women in climate change by creating local energy initiatives and communities – however, research in Europe showed, that with regard to such initiatives, women participate less than men. A lack of time due to the burden of unpaid care work, financial barriers and technical issues were identified as possible reasons. Still, due to the high responsiveness to the needs and demands of their members, co-operatives are recognized to be vehicles for women’s empowerment, often already embracing equality, inclusion and diversity policies and strategies. Anke also presented a case study on gender responsive energy cooperatives in Georgia, were the reliance on firewood, which was especially causing concerns to women, had been dramatically reduced through emission free technologies, e.g. solar collectors for hot water.