Local women leading the way on clean energy innovation

Key facts:
  1. The TEA programme’s skills and expertise development support is committed to developing local talent, especially in women students and job seekers, to improve clean energy access

  2. Two TEA initiatives deliver short, medium and long-term capacity building support: the Off-Grid Talent Initiative (OGTi) and the TEA Learning Partnership (TEA-LP)

  3. TEA-LP is supporting the development of multidisciplinary Masters courses at eight African universities to bridge skills gap in Africa’s rapidly-growing energy access sector and to recruit and benefit more women students

  1. OGTi builds a pipeline of highly skilled women in the clean energy sector through graduate placements and mid-management level training initiatives. OGTi has now provided training and/or placement opportunities to 370 women and 420 men from 23 different countries

  2. The majority of job placements are for women and the management training is helping women to thrive in middle and senior management positions in clean energy

  3. As of March 2021, 97% (35 out of 36) of women who have completed their one-year placement have been offered further employment by their employers

Reduction in managed teams’ turnover, improved personnel performance, pay rises and promotions are just some of the benefits reported by the 85 clean energy companies whose middle management received training through the OGTi.

“The team is happier, and the environment is more welcoming even for new employees”, says Stephen Manyasi, Kenya Country Manager and Head of Channel & Partnerships at solar system company Trend Solar, one of the participants in the mid-management level training initiative. Manyasi’s team exceeded the quarterly sales target and the company’s sales increased by 5% month on month after his team’s training.

Aiming to identify and build the capabilities of Africa-based talent in the clean energy sector, TEA-LP is led by a team at the University of Cape Town and involves eight universities in Africa. The OGTi is delivered by two organisations – recruitment company Shortlist and the African Management Institute (AMI). Together they find talent, provide job training, and connect job seekers and companies, increasing opportunities for Africans in the clean energy space and paving the path for locally-led innovation.

Below are a few examples of how these organisations are working to increase local representation, with an emphasis on cultivating women’s talent and connecting them to clean energy positions, and to unlock the significant skills, energy, and ideas that women can bring to the energy access sector. 

TEA Learning Partnership partners with eight African universities to increase the number of women in clean energy graduate programmes 

TEA-LP aims to build capacity in Africa to supply the clean energy sector with local expertise by improving Masters level programmes focused on clean energy access. Working in partnership with eight universities, it prioritises the education of women and students from disadvantaged backgrounds with needs and merit-based scholarships, and incentivises teaching practices that work for students of diverse backgrounds. The initiative is also incorporating gender concepts into the curriculum to prepare students to design products for women customers. The National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Mekelle University (MU) launched renewed programmes at the end of 2020 and the remaining six universities plan to launch their new courses within the next year. 

40% more women apply to energy jobs if the recruitment advert wording considers them

Addressing the prevailing perception that the energy sector is the domain of men and that women need not apply is being tackled through recruitment strategies. The work of recruitment agency Shortlist is focused on bringing more women into the clean energy space. 55% of its job placements are for women in a broad range of entry level positions including engineers, data scientists, logisticians, finance roles, customer service and sales. Strategies used include: 

  • Gender-sensitive marketing and images, and leveraging of networks with women talent
  • Screening of companies using its gender-forward criteria (i.e., women in leadership, prioritisation of gender parity through policies and practices)
  • Training for placements on gender-sensitive communication
  • Research into and thought leadership around constraints and solutions in order to appeal to women job seekers in clean energy
  • Peer-to-peer networking for women placements. 

As part of a research collaboration with Open Capital, Shortlist tested job description content with OGTi employer partners (including simple wording changes, like shifting pronouns or emphasising flexible work policies) to incentivise more women to apply for clean energy jobs. Findings showed that simple changes could result in up to 40% more women applying to jobs. Strategies that are most effective in the attraction and retention of women include:

  • Using behavioural nudges to encourage women to apply and to complete their applications
  • Setting parameters for paid social media campaigns to target female youth
  • Designing the marketing and communication campaigns around the programme with female applicants in mind, showing diversity and telling women success-stories in the energy sector.
Sample ad encouraging women to apply for jobs in the clean energy sector through both verbal and visual cues. Credit: Shortlist.

Messages that are relatable and help women ‘see themselves’ being successful in a role and images with women in diverse settings (not just hard hats and work sites) are some of the key lessons Shortlist extracts from its campaigns.

Speak Up and Lead: how Transforming Energy Access is enabling African women leaders in clean energy companies to shine

Susan Blixen, a Procurement and Logistics Associate at Biolite in Kenya, is one of the middle-managers trained through Empowering Managers, AMI’s project under the OGTi. “I have been able to lead myself better and thus lead others,” says the young woman, adding that this has improved her people skills and her work relationships.

To date, 42% of the 370 middle managers in clean energy businesses in Africa trained through Empowering Managers have been women. This is significantly higher than the sector-wide average of women in management positions, which currently stands at 32%.  

Participant in the Empowering Managers Programme shares how the programme helped her solve problems and manage her team better. Credit: AMI.

The project’s primary goal is supporting clean energy businesses to strengthen their management teams. But their key secondary goal is to ensure that 50% of their trainees are women and to build their skills to enable their career progression and success in the clean energy space.

Key to this accomplishment has been AMI’s use of deliberate outreach to women, as well as accommodating women’s diverse needs for participation. This includes scheduling training around childcare and maternity leave requirements. Beyond this recruitment success, AMI is applying a gender lens to its research and training curricula.  

  • In its research, AMI is tracking women’s mobility over time, to validate whether their higher performance and completion rates results in career mobility, as demonstrated by promotions and salary increases. 
  • In its curricula, it has designed new modules, such as a ’Speak Up and Lead’ workshop, which significantly benefits women. It is also embarking on a new partnership with Bopinc, with inputs from Value for Women, to design a manager training curriculum, which applies a gender lens to various business modules. 

The TEA programme’s skills and expertise development support is leading on inclusion to ensure that local people are in positions of leadership and influence to guide clean energy development.