International Women's Day: Advancing Diversity in Energy

By Pamela Hill

One third of global corporations have no women in the senior management ranks at all, a figure that has been stagnant since 2011. In fact according to a recent study, only 8% percent of the world’s largest corporations. 

A similar gap exists in the renewable energy and climate spaces, with women heading 12% of the world’s 800-plus environmental ministries and six percent of the largest energy companies in the U.S.  Just as diverse renewable energy resources enhance the efficiency and resilience of the world’s energy mix, a diverse and engaged workforce significantly increases profits and productivity. 

On this 43rd anniversary of International Women’s Day, it’s worth considering the value that accrues to society from tapping the power of diversity, and recognizing the strides being made in the Caribbean.      

The Dollars and Cents of Diversity

In Ernst & Young’s study of gender equality in the power industry, the 20 most gender-diverse utilities delivered returns 15% higher than their least diverse peers.  Said another way, every $100 invested in a highly diverse energy utility earned shareholders an extra dollar in returns—$8 and change instead of $7 and change.  Not through riskier projects or stringent cost-cutting, but through leveraging a more diverse workforce.  A joint analysis by the Clinton Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed a similar link between corporate profits and the number of women on boards. 

Women Scientist Examining Laser

Diversity represents the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. And it is inextricably linked to the concept of inclusion when considering how to address differences in perspectives and change management.

Gender Inclusion in Action in the Caribbean

Women are hit first and worst by climate change, but are rarely positioned as leaders on the policy and legislative front.  Recognizing that she who holds the pen writes the rules, the Government of Barbados is positioning women as change agents through training geared towards positioning women as negotiators on climate change. 

Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz captured the global stage as the de-facto leader for the rebuilding  of the island and its energy infrastructure.  Women entrepreneurs are capitalizing on this momentum and leading a push broaden economic opportunities. 

Diverse Women Photo

Having the had the privilege to have served as a CEO and a CFO multiple electric utilities in the Caribbean, I have seen first-hand the superior quality of initiatives spearheaded by diverse teams, from increasing the diversity of candidates applying to technical roles, to empowering the administrative staffs, roles held primarily by women, to lead business initiatives beyond the administrative sphere.

While much has been accomplished in the region, there is still more to in to bridging the gender divide.  It’s time to tap into a new source of power and engage women more broadly in climate and energy leadership.

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Pam Hill is Senior Vice President, International at PowerSecure Inc. and the Chair of the Clinton Foundation's Women In Renewable Energy (WIRE) Advisory Council. She has more than twenty years of domestic and global energy industry experience, and writes on energy markets, women in leadership and finance issues.  

Alejandro Bodipo-Memba

Chicago, Illinois