Despite there being commitments associated with gender equality and climate justice in the Paris agreement, sustainable finance expert Professor Nick Robins stated that not enough has been done. Within the COP26 Green Room panel discussion on Business and Climate Justice, he discussed his point of view with fellow panellists Ms Kristina Skireka, CEO of Power for All, and Ms Ellen Maynes, an operation officer on gender equality, saying that that COP26 should be the place to bring up these forgotten commitments.
Their discussion revolved around the simple yet effective actions they believed should be implemented across the world to help women become a bigger part of the energy work force. The panel chair, Jane Nelson, Director of Corporate Responsibility Initiative, stated that women are underrepresented in energy jobs in the green sector which is a thriving, well paid and increasingly important industry. There are 1 billion people in the world without power and 1 billion only with intermediate power sources. Ms Skireka suggested that despite wanting everyone in the world to share power equally, initially we need smaller steps which focus on helping women to take control of their own energy. Access to education is a known factor for community development , but this is often stunted by time commitments needed for accessing and generating energy. Having easy access to energy means the hours spent generating energy or the long walks taken to charge up any necessary electrical devices, could be otherwise dedicated to study or employment. Ms Maynes pointed out that many of the businesses undertaken by woman in developing countries could be improved with more available energy sources. She also added that training and opportunities can arise when people have a more dependable energy supply.
The three panellists agreed that a clear plan should be established in every business for gender inclusion and diversity. Studies show increased inclusivity helps develop the voices and skills of both men and women in the work force. Most policies or climate action plans relate to cutting carbon, which is critically important, but more should still be done in investing in people. The stigma round hiring women needs to be addressed and replaced with a discourse that illustrates the clear benefits of having a larger or more diverse workforce. Whilst it is likely that cultural biases which place men above women will continue to hinder progress, the process of removing barriers can start by giving women a platform in their community to speak and others listening and taking actions.
Written by Isabel Smith, COPCAS PhD student