Powering Women’s Economic Development Through Equal Access to Energy

Sheila Oparaocha of the International Network on Gender and Sustainability discusses the global effort to ensure gender equality in energy access, as an essential foundation for economic development and public health. 

One billion people around the world lack access to electricity, and three times as many do not have access to fuel and appliances that allow for clean and safe cooking inside the home. The lack of clean and reliable energy is a major barrier to economic development and an ongoing threat to human health in some of the poorest parts of the globe.

Sheila Oparaocha, the recipient of the Kleinman Center’s 2021 Carnot Prize for outstanding contributions in energy policy, discusses efforts to bring access to reliable, affordable and clean energy to areas in need, and ensure that energy becomes a foundation of economic development that is available to women and men alike.

Oparaocha is the International Coordinator of ENERGIA, the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy. ENERGIA partners with governments and industry to provide women with access to finance, training and technical skills to build energy-based businesses. It also works with governments and other key actors to integrate gender-responsive approaches in energy policies, programs and projects.

Andy Stone:  Welcome to the Energy Policy Now podcast from the Climate Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m Andy Stone. One billion people around the world lack access to electricity. And three times as many do not have access to fuel and appliances that allow for clean and safe cooking inside the home. The lack of clean and reliable energy is a major barrier to economic development, and an ongoing threat to human health in some of the poorest parts of the globe. On today’s podcast, we’ll be hearing from a woman who is at the forefront of efforts to bring access to reliable, affordable and clean energy to areas that so badly need it.

Her efforts go beyond supplying energy to insuring that energy becomes a foundation of economic development that is available to women and men alike. Sheila Oparaocha is the International Coordinator of ENERGIA, the international network on gender and sustainable energy. ENERGIA partners with governments and industry to provide women with access to finance, training and technical skills to build energy based businesses. It also works with governments, energy agencies and other key actors to integrate gender responsive approaches in energy policies, programs and projects. Sheila is also the recipient of this year’s Carnot Prize, which is the Climate Center’s annual award that honors outstanding contributions in energy policy. Sheila, welcome to the podcast and congratulations on receiving the Carnot Prize.

Sheila Oparaocha:  Thank you very much for having me on the podcast. And greetings to you from Lusaka, Zambia, where I am currently working from. This is not where ENERGIA’s headquarters is. We’re headquartered in the Hague. But it’s nice to be in my home country, Lusaka, Zambia. And yes, I was — thank you again for congratulating me on the prize. I was very humbled and extremely honored to be able to receive the award.

And even more so, the cherry on the pie was that I received Kleinman Center’s invitation to establish a new fellowship designed for Penn students interested in the energy transition and gender to come and do the internship with us at ENERGIA. And so we’re really excited about that. At ENERGIA, we have found that young people do not look for problems, they actually chase after solutions. They bring a very refreshing perspective to us. And you know, when you’re in the mode of implementing your programs and very operational, you can tend to look at all the risk, and it’s nice to have, you know, young students around that are excited and bring that enthusiasm with them, and are focused on moving forward and moving forward with solutions. So we’re really excited about that, and we hope we will be able to provide an opportunity for Penn students to really understand the importance of the intersectionality of gender equality, women’s empowerment and energy access, working with us and also working with our partners.

Stone:  So the organization that you lead, ENERGIA, is working to address the challenge of global energy poverty by insuring that women have equitable access to energy. Can you tell us more about ENERGIA’s mission and your role as international coordinator?

Oparaocha:  Yeah, let me just start from the beginning. So within ENERGIA, we were established in 1996. And for gender experts that will be listening to this, they will recall that 1996 was when the international community at the UN, maybe states, ratified the Beijing platform for action. And this really provided the framework and the agreements and commitments from member states in the international community.

To mainstream gender into all sectors, into all interventions. ENERGIA was established in — this happened in 1995. ENERGIA was establish in 1996 at the backdrop of that. When a group of energy experts that had been working in the field and recognized that there was very little legitimacy given to women’s issues, gender issues, particularly gender and poverty, in the energy sector that they were working on. So they established ENERGIA as an institutional platform for where they could work on gender and energy issues. And so we started on that, and our vision and mission has been that women and men have equal and equitable access to and control over sustainable energy services as an essential right to development. So that’s our mission. It sounds very complicated.

But each and every word there has a lot of meaning for us. We go beyond access. We go to control. Having control means that you have decisions over it. A lot of us have access to things, but we’re not — particularly with women and with vulnerable groups, that might have access but are not necessarily making decisions. And for us, it’s the services that energy provides. We recognize that there are many different sources that you get your energy from. But it’s the services that it provides for us to convert that energy to use for products. So that’s important. And that it’s a right to development, although energy is not one of the — like we have a right to water, we have a right to housing. Although energy is not one of the human rights, we believe that it’s a public good, and so there is a responsibility for our governments to provide energy to meet, because it’s so essential to meet, basic needs.

And for us to develop. It also makes economic sense. And so that’s really our mission and goal. And my role is the international coordinator, meaning that I am overall responsible for the work that we do and for delivering on the programs. Not just to our development partners that give us funding for the work that we do, but also to our own partners. So I take that responsibility and have been doing so, I joined ENERGIA in late 1991, so the past 21 years. And I do this in many different ways. First of all, I am really engaged in our global advocacy work. And so to give you an example, I cofacilitate the sustainable development goal number seven, technical advisor group, which is convened by the UN to support the UN in monitoring progress that we have on sustainable development goal number seven, which is on energy.

So I do that with the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Norway. So that means that I really have a seat at the table where member states sit to deliberate and to negotiate and discuss and see what progress they’re doing. Not just member states, but also other key stakeholders. I also lead our gender mainstreaming work, where again, we are engaged not just with energy programs, renewable energy programs but with our electricity utilities and education agencies to insure that they are including gender into their energy work and operations. Also, I work very closely with the governments, particularly the Ministry of Energies, where ENERGIA is present to integrate gender into their work and their portfolio.

But I ‘m also responsible for building our partnerships like for instance we’re very excited to be starting now a partnership with the Kleinman Center. So that’s another thing that I do.

Stone:  So at the center of ENERGIA’ work, it seems, is the understanding that women use energy differently than men, and that’s often due to their being locked in traditional gender roles. Can you tell us a little bit about how are women’s energy needs fundamentally different from men’s, and how does this affect their ability to achieve economic security?

Oparaocha:  Yeah, absolutely. Very important. So indeed, within any geography, it’s very important to deconstruct. Up to the lowest possible numerator that you have. So within a household, we really deconstruct the household into who is living in that household and whose needs of interest are being met, so that men, women, children, the mother in law, you know, whoever is living in that household. And that’s really important because of the context that we work in. We work mostly in developing countries. We work in very poor and rural communities. And unfortunately, in these communities, we find that they are a lot of traditional — you referred to them as traditional — a lot of traditional gender roles that had been put in place because of what society deems is the way a woman or man should behave. And in the energy sector, for instance, women — and in the context that we work in — women have been deemed responsible, for instance, for procuring for processing and for using household energy.

So it means that they are really responsible for a lot of the domestic tasks within the household. Which is quite different from men. So just to put some numbers that a woman in the countries that we work for can spend anything from five to eight hours doing domestic tasks, compared to 30 minutes to an hour of her male counterparts. So that means that when energy is coming into the communities that we are working for, we are very interested in energy that is going to provide appliances that are going to help women relieve a lot of the work that they do. Unfortunately, in our communities, a lot of the work that women do in the domestic sphere is really their own human energy, which is not the most productive.

Which means that they might not necessarily have time, if you’re spending most of your time collecting water, collecting fuel wood, cooking over fire wood, which takes you a long time, then you don’t necessarily have time left over for going to school. You don’t have time left over for engaging in your business activities. So it’s really important to when ENERGIA is coming in that energy that looks at what are the different needs and interests of women and men. I’ve talked about the household but let’s go now to business, like I have mentioned. So what we find is that a lot of — again, in the context that we work in, a lot of women tend to work in what we call the informal sector. And in the informal sector, they use very rudimentary forms of energy.

Once again, a lot of it being fuel wood. But also the businesses that engage in it tend to be much more heat intensive. So that means when you’re bringing energy in, for instance, it will be good to bring electricity in, which is important. But don’t forget that they might also need to bring in fuels that will make women’s productive activities much more efficient.

So indeed, they are different gender roles in the context that we work in. Women tend to do most of the household work, men tend to do most of the subsistence, productive work but also tend to work in the informal sector. So when you bring in energy, it’s important to take that into consideration and make sure that you’re providing energy also to meet the needs of women based on their roles and their interest.

And also, I should say, that we — energy should be a way of transforming women’s lives. So we don’t want them to be locked into their traditional roles. We want, indeed, to make sure that we use the time and labor, but we also want to provide them energy that will provide them opportunities to build businesses, provide them opportunity to go to school, et cetera. So then also providing energy services for instance for girls’ schools is very important, so that they can better themselves.

Energy is also extremely important for women’s health. Women do a lot of cooking and because of that they inhale very toxic fumes while they’re cooking over a biomass and traditional wood, and this is called indoor air pollution, and it causes, the toxic smoke and fumes cause a lot of respiratory track issues, health issues, for women. Not only that, it also causes reproductive issues. But this is to the extent that we have *4 million premature deaths every year of women and children. So that’s a great cause. So if we have better forms of energy, of fuels, that women can cook from, also the technology that they are using for their cooking, if it can become more efficient and safer for them, then we save lives, and that’s meeting women’s need and women’s interests.

* Clarification: The World Health Organization reports that “close to 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene. Close to half of deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 years of age are caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.”

Stone:  So it sounds like what you’re talking about is two fundamental issues here. One is that in these traditional roles, women are spending an inordinate amount of their day doing, you know, household or house related work. The energy would allow them to ease that work burden and then have more time to engage in their own businesses, right? To actually make money, to move beyond the informal economy.

Oparaocha:  Absolutely.

Stone:  And also you’re talking about the energy is needed to clean up the in home cooking, which is a health hazard. And it’s just interesting as well, because I just wanted to make one more contrast here. Based upon what you’ve been talking about, women’s roles, I would assume that men’s roles tend to be more formal jobs outside of the house, where their need for energy may be more in kind of a manufacturing type business, something like that. Would that be accurate to say?

Oparaocha:  Yes, in the context that we work in, indeed. That we find a lot of men tend to migrate. They go to the urban areas. And indeed, they tend to work in service industries or in manufacturing. And so the type of energy services that they need are usually what we call the higher tier, mostly electricity based. Type of services. And also for different needs. So providing energy for men is also important, because it helps to grow the economy. And also, let’s not forget. You also have poor men. It’s not all men that have those opportunities. We also have men, more vulnerable men, men with disabilities that maybe have not moved on or men that are living themselves in much poorer communities, which might need the same type of energy services and needs that women need in their poorer communities.

So yes, the majority do tend to migrate and get jobs in more manufacturing of the service industries, which calls for a higher tier of energy.

Stone:  A few minutes ago, you mentioned the issue of gender main streaming. And energy that supports a gender mainstreaming approach to solve the problem of women’s energy inequality. Can you tell us a little bit more? What exactly is gender mainstreaming?

Oparaocha:  So the UN, I talked about the Beijing platform for action, and it was at this conference, this international United Nations conference that the word “gender mainstreaming” was first used. And it’s not an end, it’s a means. And it is a strategy for insuring that we deliberately and intentionally take into consideration what are the concerns, what are the needs, of both men and women, in all the dimensions of our interventions, whether they are policies, whether they are programs, whether it’s resources.

When you are designing, we start from the planning and design phase until implementation. And more importantly, we also need to be accountable. So in our managing and our evaluation of our policies and our programs of our budgets, it’s very important that we really intentionally do that analysis to see, you know, is this really meeting the needs and the interest and the rights of men and women, where the differences, where the gaps are, and how can we address those gaps. Where are the opportunities and how can we build up those opportunities? So it’s really doing that intentionally.

And it’s by using this strategy that we say that we can achieve gender equality. And this is by using the strategy that we can say we can be much more targeted if we need to be. And you know, really focusing on addressing those inequalities and addressing those gaps and empowering women, or addressing those inequalities and addressing those gaps and empowering the girl child.

Or addressing those inequalities and those gaps and empowering the boy child or empowering men.

Stone:  So ENERGIA runs what’s called the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program, which supports women in the development of energy micro businesses, and that’s a way to address economic gender equality and health challenges that we’ve  been talking about. Can you talk about the types of businesses that women develop with the assistance of the program, and about the impact that it has on their economic self sufficiency?

Oparaocha:  Yes. So one of our flagship approaches at ENERGIA is indeed our Women’s Economic Empowerment Program, and this is a program that we have run in six countries, in Indonesia, in Nepal, in Nigeria, in Senegal, in Tanzania, in Kenya, and we also of course for some time have run it in Uganda. And in our Women’s Economic Empowerment Program we have also a very strong policy focus. So we really deal with women in what we call our last mile community. So these are in rural and remote areas, where we’re trying to support women’s businesses. And most of the businesses that we support in this context tend to be micro enterprises. Micro to small enterprises.

And what we do is we try to use a holistic approach, by saying, you know, first of all, we identify the women businesses in these communities and we try to insure that these businesses run as good businesses. So that means that there’s a lot of capacity building, a lot of training into what good business practice is. How do you do your bookkeeping. How do you make sure that you are aware of what your inventory is. What does it mean to invest in your business and also take a salary or not take a salary.

What does it mean to make your business ready so that others, a bank, might be willing to invest in it. So really teaching good business practice. Then aside from that, we also — financing has been a very big issue. So we also try to be the link between our women entrepreneurs who are not necessarily looked at as by banks as wanted to offer loans or credit to, we try to make them creditworthy. And this means, like I said, getting a good business plan into place with our women entrepreneurs, but this is also educating our financial institutions. Mostly micro finance institutions, as to why it is important to invest in these women, and why their businesses really make sense in the areas that they are. Where we find a lot of traditional commercial businesses are not able to reach in rural areas, where people are still requiring services, so it still makes good business sense to go in there, and that women businesses actually have a comparative advantage because they’re there and they understand the context, and they can use different networks that commercial distribution chains cannot use. They can use their own networks to actually distribute services, why it’s important. So we work very closely with financial institutions. We also provide what we call guarantee funds to be sort of the insurance for the women if there’s any default, et cetera. And that sort of reduces the risks for financial institutions to be able to work with our women entrepreneurs.

We also will link our women entrepreneurs into other service providers that are, for instance, giving other forms of training that are necessary. For instance, if we work with women entrepreneurs in our productive views, we work with women entrepreneurs that are for instance running horticulture or agriculture, and so we link them up to service providers that can provide them with that skill so they can learn how to produce agriculture, et cetera. So yes, for us, it’s not just one off. Mentoring is very important.

We work with mentors that work on very closely with our women entrepreneurs on a monthly, on a daily, basis, where they have developed their business plans. They continue to encourage and support our women entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses, because it’s very tough. We also insure that we try to formalize our women businesses by registering these businesses, because once you formalize them, this provides entry and openings into a lot of other resources that they can tap into, which they normally would not do. I also want to mention that we have found that when working with women, aggregating them, because their businesses tend to be quite small, aggregating them into groups, as savings and credit groups, has been an approach that has really worked with us.

And these savings and credit groups have the advantage that it teaches the women they can come together, they can work together, and they can build — it’s economies of scale. So rather than producing just one product on their own or what — you know, being on their own in terms of filling maybe one or two or five, they can aggregate their businesses, come together and then they sell maybe 100 together, if on their own they could not do that, but they can sort of aggregate and sell together.

It also provides the women with a lot of encouragement and support working together.

Stone:  Let me ask you a question based on that. You mentioned solar panels, you also mentioned some agricultural, I guess, products. I want to get a bit of a clearer idea of the products, the services that the women are, you know, in business with, and really tie in the fact that this is really not just about getting energy to these rural communities but actually putting the equipment in place, the appliances, whatever it may be, so that people can actually take advantage of that energy. Is that right?

Oparaocha:  Yes.

Stone:  So the women are really working in the products that take advantage of energy as well?

Oparaocha:  Yes. So we do it in two ways. Indeed, what we do is that we try to — we support women to enter into renewable energy value chain. So this might be fuel efficient cook stoves, this could be products such as solar lights or solar lanterns, this could also be biomass briquettes. A lot of these value chains tend to be dominated by men, and what we do is we support the women to develop their capacity to be able to run businesses within these value chains.

So they themselves, women get the training to understand these technologies, to understand how to run a business and to sell these type of technologies, and then they start providing those appliances to their own communities. So they then start becoming the entry points of actually providing this type of energy technologies and energy services to their own communities. So that’s one.

The other thing is that we work with — we look at value chains where women are very dominant. So this could be an agri-processing. This could be making shea butter. This could be in processing fish, for instance. These also tend to be very energy intensive businesses. And so it is bringing the energy into those businesses where energy can sometimes make 20% of the input into those businesses, is bringing the energy into those businesses.

But it’s also working with those women’s businesses to see that they are running as good businesses and are able to grow. So we do work on both sides of the chain, engaging women in renewable energy value chains and making sure that they become part of the value chain and are fitted in that value chain where they are going to make money and they are going to — their businesses are going to grow. But on the other side, it’s also looking at women’s existing entrepreneurs where they tend to dominate, either in manufacturing or in agricultural processing, and bringing the energy there to increase the productivity of those businesses there as well.

Stone:  And interesting as well in some of these rural villages, my understanding is that the women, one, are uniquely well qualified because of their social networks to socialize, to get the idea of these products around to the neighborhood so that everybody can benefit. Number two, some of the information that’s provided on the ENERGIA site talks about the last mile problem, and that is that again, because some of these villages are very remote, there’s the problem of actually getting this equipment from the final distribution place to these villages, and women are very good at bridging that gap, is that correct?

Oparaocha:  That’s absolutely correct. So what we normally find in the developing countries that we work in is that commercial suppliers of these products will end at where the tarred road ends, because it’s just, I guess, more convenient for their business model, it makes sense for their business model. Where they don’t go is beyond that and this is where we find that women really have a comparative advantage.

That women are running their small, informal businesses in these areas that are solving communities here, where commercial businesses find it very difficult to reach. So that these existing women businesses provide a ready spring board for where energy businesses can start, renewable energy businesses can start and you can roll them out. And they can move the products then from where the commercial distributors, energy distributors, end, to where rural and poor communities are living. And what the women need is just that support to be able to run proper businesses in these areas, to be able to scale and to grow their businesses, to take them from being, you know, nascent types of businesses, to the next level.

And this is where ENERGIA comes in. We come in with our support in terms of capacity building, in terms of linking to capital, in terms of making sure that they get the right type of training from other skills and other providers that they need, and to be able to grow their businesses.

Stone:  Now, ENERGIA lobbies governments to establish energy and gender equality programs. What types of — can you tell us a little bit more about how it prioritizes these programs, how it works with governments to build and scale these programs?

Oparaocha:  Yeah. So our work with governments is at two different levels. Let me say three. We work with governments at the national level, and that’s mainly ministries of energy that are responsible for providing energy within our countries, our developing countries. So that’s one level. We also work with governments at the international level, mainly within the UN, where international policy is negotiated. So here, we tend to work with our governments, one, in really looking at what their policies are.

First of all, what is the process of policy making, and are you consulting with women on your energy policy. That would be one. Next, when that policy is developed, have you really established the interest and gender needs within that policy? Is there — have you identified it as one of the priorities of the energy policy of the country. We then go further and say okay, the policy is there, but the policy needs to be implemented. So what are the means of implementation, and are the needs of implementation really taken in consideration of gender? So the means of implementation could be for instance, your regulation, it could be your tariffs, it could be your pricing. Have those taken gender issues into consideration? Do you have pricing that for instance takes into consideration that you do have much — so for instance, your electricity connection.

Do you take into consideration that female head of households might be much poorer than male head of households, and you might have to have a different pricing system from them. So that’s what we do at the country level. And we work with a strategy called gender audits. This is not something that we developed, this is something that was developed in other sectors, mainly in the agriculture sector.

And it’s a process where we review intensively and in detail the budgets and the policies that are there, and identify entry points where you can take into consideration women’s needs to run businesses in the energy sector, women’s needs to have cooking energy, women’s needs to have technology that reduces their domestic activities, for instance. Spaces for increasing women’s entry into STEM education, for instance. Increasing women’s retention and employment into the sector. So that’s one.

At the international level, we tend to work much more with the UN and within the UN. And there we both work as what we call women’s major group, because the UN provides a space for non governmental actors to engage in the negotiations of member states. And one of those is what we call women’s major group. So we for a long time were what were called one of the organizing partners of women’s major groups, when we tended to facilitate the inputs that women have. But we also worked much more closely and directly with UN agencies as well. To insure that when they are developing strategies on behalf of governments, that these energy strategies will take gender into consideration as well. So we do a lot of lobbying and advocacy with our member states to insure that gender issues are included.

Stone:  You know, I find a question for you here, and it kind of goes back to one of the things that you were talking about early in our conversation today. And you really seem to make the link between gender equity and energy access, meaning gender equality really is in a sense based upon access, equal access to energy.

So with that said, I want to ask you this. Are you optimistic that the United Nations sustainable development goals, and that’s for gender equality, which is SDG number five, and energy access, which is SDG or Sustainable Development Goal number seven, are you optimistic that those goals will be reached within their time frame, which is by 2030, not very long from now?

Oparaocha:  So ENERGIA started engaging with the sustainable development goals, so the SDGs, since they were founded. We were part of what was called the Sustainable Energy For All community that supported the Secretary General to establish SDG seven. This was in 2015, and so we have been part of the journey. I would say that we’re optimistic in some ways. The SDGs has got three main targets. One, universal access to energy, there’s one on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under universal access for energy, there’s one that focuses more on universal access to electricity and there’s one on cooking energy. We’re more optimistic with electricity because we have seen a billion people since 2015 being given access to electricity. Admittedly, this has been limited to certain countries, India being one of the countries, but there are also countries like Kenya that have an integrated approach of both extending electricity through the much more centralized large scale of the grid, but also using decentralized renewable energy, and so then being able to extend electricity to billions of people. However, we still find — yeah, so in that, maybe. But then we still find that there’s still about 800 million people that do not have access to electricity, and most of them living in rural areas.

We still find that 2.8 billion people do not have access to clean cooking services, most of those being women. So in those cases, we tend to be less optimistic about us being able to meet the SDG7 and less there is strong political commitment and investments to move forward. We are not optimistic by what we hear coming out of the international energy agency that says that 6.2 million people will remain without access to electricity by 2030. And what makes me even more sad is that most of these people come from the continent that I am from, and that’s in sub-Saharan Africa.

So there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and the focus needs to be if we’re going to meet SDG7, getting the gender question right and getting the cooking energy right. And of course because women play such an important role in providing cooking energy, the two are very much interconnected. So in that, we feel that one, we need to move ahead and get the political commitment to addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the energy sector, are heads of states, are ministers, who need to make at the political level that political commitment. We then need to get the policies right. We need to have gender responsive policies, because that provides the framework within which we can distribute our resources and which our governments tend to prioritize.

I talked about budgets. We need to scale up our investments. We’re not talking about millions, we are talking about — you know, we need to see how we can redirect investments that are going into other areas, that need to come into this. These are billions of dollars that need to come. But starting at different levels is really important. 100,000 that are invested into rural communities can really make a difference, but in the end, we need to get the funding and investments right to address — you know, to scale up women businesses in the energy sector, to make sure that women have cooking energy, to make sure that they have energy to pump their water, and to do their agriculture activities. Also very important is women need to have a seat at the table. We really need to engage women in decision making. We need to see much more women energy ministers. We need to see much more women CEOs running these energy companies, both in the private sector but also in the utilities. We need to be accountable.

Stone:  That’s another aspect, if I may, of equality, right?

Oparaocha:  Yes, absolutely.

Stone:  Are you seeing women having more roles, I guess, in energy related businesses, where you’re working?

Oparaocha:  Well, so work that has been done by the international renewable energy agency has found that women represent about 32% of the workforce in the renewable energy sector, compared to about 20% in the conventional energy. And while that is an improvement from the conventional energy, I mean, 32% is really not going to get there. So in terms of gender equality, although it’s one third, and of course the Beijing platform, the commitments at least in all forms and sectors and all value chains, we should have at least one third parity. But that’s not sufficient. It really needs to be 50% or more.

And so there’s a lot of work to be done there. And then if you look at where women are engaged, these are mostly in the softer areas, which I think is really important. But it’s more in — you know, it’s not necessarily middle management. It tends to be lower level management. And it tends to be much more not on the technical side. So I think we really need to engage much more women in the technical and managerial roles in the energy sector and really push that 32% in renewable energy to 60%, to 70%. Push the 20%, again, to 50%, but really go beyond to 60 or 70%.

And the reason I’m saying 60 or 70% is because historically women have had less. So I think if we’re really going to address the inequalities, we have to really aim above the 50%. And if we’re going to do that, it means building a pipeline within our universities, within our vocational training, within our secondary schools of women that can come in and join the energy sector. So I think STEM education, mentoring, recruiting young women to enter into the energy sector, is also going to be really important. And also providing their role models for them to do that. So I think this is why podcasts like what you have here, and hopefully I can inspire other women and also the Kleinman fellowship is going to be important, and I’m hoping that we can get a lot of the young Penn women that have joined that to come into the sector as well.

Stone:  Sheila, thank you very much for talking.

Oparaocha:  Thank you very much. It’s been a great pleasure.

Stone:  Today’s guest has been Sheila Oparaocha. Executive Director of ENERGIA and this year’s recipient of the Carnot Prize for Distinguished Contributions in the Field of Energy Policy. Visit the Climate Center website for more energy policy insights, including research, blogs, events, and this podcast. For updates from the center, sign up for our monthly e-mail newsletter from our home page or follow us on Twitter. Thanks for listening to Energy Policy Now and have a great day.


Sheila Oparaocha

International Coordinator and Program Manager, Energia
Sheila Oparaocha is the international coordinator and program manager at Energia. She is the recipient of the 2021 Carnot Prize for distinguished contributions to energy policy.

Andy Stone

Energy Policy Now Host and Producer
Andy Stone is producer and host of Energy Policy Now, the Kleinman Center’s podcast series. He previously worked in business planning with PJM Interconnection and was a senior energy reporter at Forbes Magazine.