“Climate change is a man made problem with a feminist solution”. So quipped B team leader and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. 

But to ensure women can be the solution, they must have a seat at the clean energy table and women’s rights and concerns must be a priority. 

To bring about a truly Just Transition, we need female leaders in energy transitions. 

One of the main drivers of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. Throughout the centuries, the fossil fuel sector has been dominated by men. 

Ireland is no exception. For instance, the majority of Bord na Mona employees are male. 

This trend of male domination looks set to continue in the global clean energy sectors. Women are poorly represented in these sectors, especially at higher levels and in STEM jobs. 

This is despite a recent report which found strengthening women’s roles in clean energy is integral to achieving the SDGs. 

Women’s absence from these industries has implications for everyone – not just women! Poor gender diversity has been linked to a lack of openness to new ideas. 

The traditional domination of the energy sector by older white men is also said to have held back its ability to adapt to climate change.

Clearly, unleashing the power of women within the clean energy sector is essential. 

This is a pivotal moment as the need to transition away from fossil fuels is now almost universally recognised. 

Many governments, including Ireland’s, are introducing new fossil fuel policies and just transition policies. 

But – as Audre Lorde put it – “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.  This statement applies perfectly to the global energy transition. 

If we ‘transition’ underlying norms and practices from the fossil fuel industry to the clean energy industry, then it is unlikely that much will change. 

Transition policies need to be about more than just helping people (read: men) move into new roles or the provision of compensation. 

The UNFCCC guidelines for a just transition call for an inclusive transition that reduces inequality and empowers historically disadvantaged groups including women. 

This means the gender impact of transition policies must be considered. For instance, in the energy sector, women are mainly represented in indirect support roles including unpaid care work. Focusing only on the workers directly impacted by job losses can actually reinforce existing gender inequities. Instead, a broader focus on social equality and gender concerns is a must. 

Ensuring greater gender diversity and women’s leadership in clean energy is also critical. 

A recent report suggests some ways to address the barriers women face. This includes establishing gender quotas for the clean energy sector, building capacities of female workers, and ensuring inclusive work environments with childcare services.  

Quitting fossil fuels presents an opportunity to pause and critically reflect on how best to proceed. 

Instead of repeating mistakes of the past and allowing biased systems to continue, we should address historical imbalances and help those currently marginalised within our global energy system. 

Women need to make up our green future. Let’s not let this opportunity slip by! 

Photo: via Pxhere

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