Empowering Women of ASEAN as the Key Player of Just Energy Transition

Jakarta, 10 March 2021

In commemorating the International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) launched an initiative about ASEAN Women in Energy-Climate sector through the ASEAN Climate Change and Energy Project (ACCEPT). The objective of this initiative is to gain perspectives and insights from women around the world and women leaders in the ministry of energy across ASEAN, on their roles in accelerating just energy transition. As part of the initiative, ACCEPT organized a public webinar on 10 March 2021 with the theme of Empowering Women of ASEAN as the Key Player of Just Energy Transition.

The webinar introduced the concept of just energy transition with special attention on the gender issue. It is designated to break the silo of gender issue by empowering the women of ASEAN to not just take part but take the lead in the energy transition. This webinar facilitated the discussion between women leaders in government, private companies, and academies, to share their knowledge and experiences in the energy-climate sector.

To begin with, Ms. Monika Merdekawati; Officer of Sustainable Energy, Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency (REE) Department of ACE as well as Research Analyst of ACCEPT, started by conveying our ASEAN Women in Energy-Climate initiative that was launched 2 days prior the webinar. She then invited Dr. Nuki Agya Utama; Executive Director of ACE, to deliver his welcoming remarks, followed by welcoming remarks from H.E. Anita Nergaard; Ambassador of Norway to Singapore.

In her remarks, Madam Nergaard mentioned how Norway is currently putting gender equality as key priority, since women are still underrepresented in the energy industry. She emphasized that access to clean and sustainable energy, as well as women empowerment, are key if just energy transition is to be achieved. She also believes that international cooperation and partnerships between government, private sectors, and academies are also important to share experiences. Concluding her speech, she underlined the importance of encouraging women to join the energy sector to pursue equitable and just energy transition.

The webinar continued with 2 keynote speeches from women leaders in energy industry. The first keynote speech was delivered by the Senior Director and Chief of Staff from Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL); Ms. Tracey Crowe. Themed Women at the Forefront of SDG7, she explained how women in Southeast Asia have been hit exceptionally hard as most of them work at the sectors that are most effected by the pandemic and shouldering more responsibilities to take care of their families.

Despite the challenges for the last year, they have a unique opportunity to accelerate action on the sustainable development goals and to recover better from the pandemic. She believes that it is now more important than ever to ensure women are at the forefront of these efforts, not as just participants and recipients but as leaders. Which means we must address the role of women in the energy sector and tackle the long-standing norms and biases that have excavated the inequality. Ms. Crowe emphasized on how energy transition has a strong link to the energy access and how equity is the key to its success.

The next keynote speech was given by Ms. Christine Lins; Executive Director of Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET) with the theme of Energizing Women to Advance the Energy Transition. She believes that increasing women’s engagement is essential to advance energy transition in a more inclusive manner. She stated that energy transition goes beyond replacing fossil fuels to clean energy sources, but also requires a change of behavior, innovation, and a large diverse talent pool.

In her presentation, she highlighted several policies and solutions to increase women’s participation in the sector, such as mainstreaming gender perspectives, creating networks and supporting mentorship, access to education and training, gender targets and quotas, workplace policies and regulations, and work-life balance. The power of gender equality does not only fulfil the enjoyment of women’s human right but also improves global GDP. In addition, companies with diverse leadership have better performance and results.

After the keynote speeches, the webinar continued with moderated panel discussion, led by Ms. Merdekawati. She opened the panel discussion with a question about how important is women’s role in energy transition, and how it is integrated in their working environment. There were 4 panelists, each representing different roles in the energy industry. Each panelist was given 10-15 minutes to share their thoughts and opinions on the topic.

Representing the government, the first panelist was Madam Nguyen Phuong Mai; Deputy Chief of the Office Electricity and Renewable Energy Authority; Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam. Madam Mai explains how the opportunities for women to be involved in sustainable sectors are growing, including in the energy sectors. She believes the expanding room for women was because women have successfully overcome the challenges and difficulties of themselves, to have responsibilities both at home as a parent and wife, and as an employee in the office. That has to be the proof that women can do as well as men.

To emphasize more on the development of women’s role, Madam Mai shared a fact that in Vietnam, one third of the experts in energy are women. The contributions were acknowledged by the leaders and therefore, more opportunities for women are opened. Women acknowledged the importance of energy and environment for daily activities, that is why women try to give their best to carry out the energy transition.

Acting as the coordinator of Sustainable Energy and Environment study program in the Faculty of Life Science and Technology of Swiss German University, Dr. -Ing. Evita H. Legowo continued the session with her presentation as a representative of academies. Dr. Evita started the presentation by asking “How to inspire and empower women?”. To answer her own question, she said, “always be there for each other”.

Dr. Evita then continued by sharing a fact that the number of women in oil and gas industries are very low globally and compared to the other countries, Indonesia considered to have low number by 6.7%. Dr. Evita then classified the challenges of women in energy into two:

  1. Internally

Meaning as women in energy, we need the support and understanding from our loved ones; we have to commit to our chosen role as a housewife, worker, or both; and we have to accept working long hours and shift work, and the possibility of living away from home.

  1. Externally

The main challenge is the activities in the energy industry, such as field activities, working in remote areas, working day and night with high risk of accidents, etc., require physical ability, which formed a paradigm that only men should deal with it. Another challenge is the policy, which should include women as well, thus reducing gender gaps related to access to energy, finances, training, employment, and entrepreneurship. She emphasized on how the opportunities for women in every field should be readdressed to gain more awareness.

Based on her own experience, to become women leaders in the energy transition, we should focus, commit, have balance, honest, think strategically, communicate, actively listen, and be reliable. Dr. Evita also pointed out how men and women have different characteristics and we should combine both to accelerate energy transition. She believes that ASEAN clean energy potential is huge, the energy markets are available, and there are many women leaders. To quote her, “it’s up to you, young women, to take action”.

Following the 2 speakers, a representative of private sectors, Ms. Tanah Sullivan; Group Head of Sustainability of GOJEK, shared her perspectives on the women’s role in the energy transition, how important it is, and how gender equality is included in GOJEK’s policy. Ms. Sullivan stated that women should have equal participations not only in the dialogue of energy transition, but also in the actions that are needed to resolve some of the biggest challenges the society has ever faced, which is climate change. We need a collective effort in solving this challenge and women are an important part of it. Excluding women would mean excluding some percentage of the world’s population, which would result in getting small segments of perspective on what kind of solutions need to be put in place.

Sharing some statistics, Ms. Sullivan stated that women make 73% of household decisions. Hence, women are not only consumers, but also entrepreneurs that take part in formal economies. She also explained that we are still hundred years away from gender payment equality. So, this conversation is crucial to make sure actions are taken to integrate women’s perspective to what energy transition is going to look like for the respective countries.

In terms of gender equity in the technology industries, she mentioned that GOJEK is still not there, with 33% of gender diversity within the company and goes down to around 24% for the leadership levels. GOJEK is trying their best to find a way to integrate the right processes, the right policies, the right modes of working, to ensure more women can take parts in the technology industries especially GOJEK.

Representing global organizations, Ms. Margaret Jackson; Deputy Director or Climate and Advanced Energy; Global Energy Center of Atlantic Council, shared her insights on how important is the women’s role in energy transition and how it is integrated in her organization. Ms. Jackson mentioned how the energy transition has grew a big picture of renewable energy across ASEAN and around the world. It creates new workforce, opening opportunities in different renewables industry and innovations. However, we can’t overlook the fact that there are still barriers for women to get there and a big part of that is access to STEM education.

In the United States, Ms. Jackson stated that there are low numbers of women in mathematics, science, and engineering for both, secondary and college education. She explained that the more women we see sitting in higher ranks in the energy industry, the more interest women will have to take part in this field. She also emphasized how mentorship is very important for women to have a clear view on their education and career options.

In Global Energy Council, Ms. Jackson mentioned about their effort to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. To quote her, “we aim to have gender parity and female representations in Global Energy Council”. She explained how her organization is putting effort in the recruitment process, to really look broadly for women participants. Ms. Jackson emphasized that women have unique perspectives that can help us address the challenges in the energy industry.

To conclude the panel discussion, Ms. Merdekawati asked each panelist to give a short closing statement about the discussed topic. Madam Mai started off by mentioning how the role of women is becoming more and more important nowadays, as well as in the future. Therefore, we need to improve ourselves, so that we are able to contribute more in the energy industry. We can create a forum to establish collaborations and share experiences on how to overcome the challenges of women working in the energy sector, in order to accelerate just energy transition.

Dr. Evita emphasized that it is important to encourage women everywhere to take part in the energy industry, especially renewable energy industry. She pointed out that both men and women have their own perspectives and strengths. By combining both gender perspectives, we can achieve a better outcome, thus accelerating the energy transition. Thus, Dr. Evita highly encouraged young women to take part in the energy transition.

Ms. Sullivan stated that GOJEK is absolutely committed to gender equality and energy transition, not just internally but also in greater ecosystem. She mentioned that they would love to see more women giving solutions on battery storage transportation system and etc., and they would absolutely integrate the solution that comes from women if there are any out there. Energy transition requires a collective effort and more brain powers for it to be successful. Hence, we really need women to give solutions to truly accelerate energy transition.

Last but definitely not least, Ms. Jackson concluded the moderated panel discussion with her closing statement. She mentioned that there would be more investment in renewable energy industry if there are more women in the board of directors. From the United States point of view, we are all excited to see the Biden administrative in gender equality initiative. Both climate change and gender equality are complex challenges. Therefore, Ms. Jackson pointed out that we need to establish collaboration between ASEAN and the United States to work together as a collective effort.


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