Posted on 18 September 2023
The shift to a clean energy system should affirm the social values we want for our future society, including the fundamental human right of gender equality.
As the EU rapidly expands offshore renewable energy development in response to the energy crisis and to fulfill the European Green Deal, a new WWF publication calls on the EU and its Member States to address the sector’s alarming gender disparity.
EU offshore renewable energy capacity is anticipated to grow by 625% between 2022 and 2030. Despite being the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the EU and a burgeoning maritime industry, the offshore renewables sector has yet to equally and equitably include women. By weaving gender equality into every facet of renewable energy policy development and implementation, the EU can better address broader social challenges that are amplified by human-induced climate change.
Last week, President von der Leyen’s State of the EU speech stressed the need to invest in skills and gender-responsive policies to deliver more inclusive and stable energy supply chains. This is of particular importance for the newly announced "European Wind Power Package" which, unless designed in a way that effectively addresses gender disparity in the sector, can add to existing labour shortages.
WWF calls on EU and Member State policymakers to uphold gender equality as a foundational EU principle and to fully execute the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. This entails crafting gender-responsive initiatives that empower women as active participants in the energy transition, fostering a just, inclusive and sustainable future.
“The time for action is now,” said Helena Rodrigues, Ocean Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office
. “Women not only bear a disproportionate burden from the impacts of climate change, they are blatantly missing from the decision-making forums that can put our societies on a path to climate and nature recovery. To achieve true climate justice, the EU must ensure equitable opportunities for women, and harness their potential in driving a climate-neutral economy and securing an equitable future for all.”
Historically entrenched, the energy sector's gender imbalance remains evident: in the EU energy sector, the gender-disparity of wages is nearly 20% and women only occupy up to 20% of senior roles. In the global wind energy sector (both on- and offshore), women make up just 21% of the workforce.
This underrepresentation of women extends to decision-making, with only four women sitting in the European Council; in the European Parliament, less than 10% of climate and energy legislative files are led by women, despite 40% female Parliament membership. Equal representation of both men and women is essential in the development and implementation of legal frameworks for our energy systems, as they ultimately affect all citizens, regardless of gender.
The sidelining of women from the energy transition is a gross misstep, as studies show that companies with a minimum 30% women in senior positions perform more effectively across the board. In addition, with women constituting half of all EU university graduates, their integration in the industry can both spur innovation and alleviate the sector's escalating skills shortage.
In its transition to low-carbon energy systems, WWF calls on the EU to dramatically improve gender balance in the rapidly-expanding offshore renewables sector. This will not only attract the additional talent urgently needed, it will help eliminate the socio-demographic inequalities women currently face.