Fuelling the future: why women with power skills are key

Anna Collyer, Chair of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), has told a Women in Energy and Climate Symposium at Parliament House in Canberra today that females excel at the skills we need for the decarbonisation of the energy system.

Women windpower

Ms Collyer spoke at the event, hosted by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, in her new capacity as an Ambassador for the Equality in Energy Transitions Initiative – established to encourage the next generation of women leaders in the clean energy sector.

Ms Collyer explained that due to the shifting nature of energy towards variable and dispersed renewable energy, opportunities will only grow for the highly valuable ‘power skills’ that women tend to bring.

“With the scale of the build ahead of us, it can only help to add more women in traditional technical roles – engineering and the trades – otherwise we simply won’t have enough people to get the work done,” Ms Collyer said.

“But we increasingly need different skills to solve the new problems that are emerging, whether it be working with communities to find space for 10,000 kilometres of new poles and wires or the invention of new businesses to support the boom in rooftop solar.

“We’re also seeing the scope for extraordinary technological innovation in storage and generation to keep the grid operating, which means working with creativity and collaboration between research, development, investment and regulation.”

Women continue to comprise less than 40 percent of the workforce in clean energy and closer to 20 percent across the whole sector, making energy the third most male-dominated industry in Australia after mining and construction.

Ms Collyer pointed to three systemic issues the energy sector needs to address, including:

  1. Ensuring physical and psychological safety
  2. Improving recruitment and promotion practices to remove unconscious bias
  3. Addressing traditional disadvantages of pay and progression that women face as child-bearers

Ms Collyer said she felt the urgency of creating more inclusive environments for women to thrive in the energy sector, quoting Isabelle Hudon, a co-chair in the global Equal by 30 campaign, who said “we must harness all possible talent, to discover the breakthrough solutions that will transform energy and the world.”

Ms Collyer explained to the symposium that diversity in any form inspires creative problem-solving and innovation.

“Whether it’s gender, culture, age, ethnicity or life experience, countless studies have shown we get better solutions when we embrace a wider range of perspectives.”

She also cited a statistic by the Australian Diversity Council that found teams that feel inclusive are 10 times more likely to come up with innovative solutions and strategies.

At an International Women’s Day staff event yesterday, Anna Collyer announced the AEMC will be plugging a crucial gap by voluntarily paying superannuation throughout both their paid and unpaid parental leave.

“The inclusion of women throughout the energy sector is essential for us to get where we are going,” Ms Collyer said.

“We need every available talent, every kind of perspective, applied to the fundamental transformation of the energy sector if we’re to reach net zero by 2050.”

To read more about the Equality in Energy Transitions Initiative, go here.

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