LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA) – Women in Energy Network (WIEN) has asked the incoming federal government administration to prioritize policies and programmes that dismantle prevailing gender bias and discrimination in the energy sector as a reliable way to harness the full human potentials in accelerating national development.
WIEN, which provides aegis for female investors, business owners, professionals and sundry workers in the energy sector declared at its 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) Breakfast Session, that government must build a society that provides congenial environment for people to excel in their endeavors irrespective of gender.
In her presentation at the event, President of WIEN, Mrs. Funmi Ogbue, proposed collaboration among policy drivers, regulators, industry leaders and organizations like WIEN to implement concrete solutions that dismantle all forms of bias and discrimination in the energy industry in particular and the country in general.
The WIEN IWD Breakfast Session which was hosted at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos, was organized in partnership with Women in Shell Network and Seplat Awesome Women’s Network focused on “Programmes & Initiatives for Equitable Access for Women in the Nigerian Energy Industry.”
The session is part of month long activities lined up by WIEN to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations which comes with the theme: “Embrace Equity.” With the activities, WIEN is driving harder on its advocacy for workplace gender balance and enhanced opportunity for women in the energy industry.
Mrs. Ogbue pointed out that the “call to Embrace Equity highlights the need to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, resources, and rights regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or other factors that can lead to inequality.”
She called on the incoming administration of the just concluded 2023 Nigerian General elections to prioritize gender equity and inclusion in its policies and decision-making, “and work with industry leaders and organizations like WIEN to implement concrete solutions.”
Mrs Ogbue stated that government must create a more equitable future by implementing policies that promote gender equity, such as increasing access to education and training programs for women in the energy industry and ensuring equal pay for equal work.
She called on the government to work with stakeholders to create a more inclusive environment by promoting diversity in leadership positions and ensuring that women’s voices are heard and valued in decision-making processes.
“Governments and legislature must strengthen existing policies to attract more women in STEM, ensure appointment of women as heads of agencies in the various sectors both at sectional, regional, and international levels as well as redraft obsolete legislations that hinder progress in the sector,” she noted.
She also called for regulations that mandate institutions to spread opportunities in the energy industry across the gender divide.
“Regulatory agencies such as the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) can implement policies that promote gender equity and inclusion in the oil and gas industry. Armed with baseline data of gender inclusion, stakeholders can start to build a framework to achieving gender inclusion,” she proposed.
Mrs. Ogbue also emphasized that “in addition to the business case, promoting gender equity in the energy industry is also a matter of social justice and human rights;” adding that “it is essential that we work together to create a future where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their gender or background.”
The stringent calls by WIEN derive from disturbing statistics that shows that women remain significantly underrepresented in the energy sector despite their significant contributions in the industry. According to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, women make up only 11 percent of the total workforce in the energy sector, and only 4.0 percent of executive board positions are held by women.
The International Energy Agency also states that only 22 percent of the global energy workforce are women, and they are underrepresented in technical and leadership roles.
Mrs. Ogbue cited the Nigeria Energy Sector Report as stating that women make up only 20 percent of the energy sector workforce.
She also said that a report by the African Development Bank (ADB) found that women in Nigeria’s energy sector face discrimination in recruitment, promotion, and pay, and are often excluded from decision-making processes.
“This is a concerning trend, as research has shown that organizations with diverse leadership teams are more innovative, perform better financially, and have better employee engagement and retention,” she noted.
WIEN blamed the situation on biases and systemic barriers that impede women’s progress and called on men in positions of influence to step up to the duty of promoting gender diversity.
“It is also crucial for men to become champions for women and advocate for their inclusion and advancement in the energy sector. Men in leadership positions must recognize the value of diversity and inclusion and take concrete steps to address biases and barriers.
“We also need to ensure that recruitment and hiring practices are inclusive and free from bias. This means implementing gender-neutral job descriptions, using diverse recruitment channels, and establishing clear diversity targets for hiring managers. By making the hiring process more equitable and inclusive, we can help to ensure that talented women have access to the same career opportunities as their male counterparts.
“By taking concrete steps to address the barriers and biases that prevent women from fully participating in the energy industry, we can help to unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s workforce and drive sustainable economic growth for all,” Mrs. Ogbue argued.
She made clear that it benefits the individual and the organization when everyone is given equal opportunity to excel; citing a report by McKinsey & Company that found that companies with gender-diverse executive teams outperform their peers by 21 percent.
To achieve gender balance in the industry, she said: “it is critical that companies and organizations set measurable goals and regularly evaluate progress towards achieving gender equity. This includes collecting and analyzing data on workforce diversity and conducting regular surveys and assessments to identify areas for improvement. Public reporting on gender equity and diversity metrics can also increase transparency and accountability.”
In citing the example of her company, she said Zigma Limited, as an industry leader: “can set an example for other companies by implementing inclusive hiring practices, investing in the career development of women, and promoting a culture of inclusion and belonging at all levels of the organization.”