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A critical issue in energy employment and access

Energy and Gender

Innovative solutions require a diverse and equitable energy sector

Despite making up 39% of the global labour force, women only account for 16% of the traditional energy sector. For management levels the numbers are even lower. The barriers women face in the energy sector are similar to those they face elsewhere in the economy. However, the challenges of the energy sector are more pressing since the sector is going through a process of transformation. Clean energy transitions will require innovative solutions and business models to be adopted and greater participation from a diverse talent pool.

Meanwhile, the lack of access to energy or to clean cooking fuels particularly impacts women, limiting their work options, exposing them to health risks, and forcing them to forage for wood or other combustible materials.

Below, find out more about our programmes and initiatives, as well as IEA countries’ actions to support gender equality in the energy sector.

Gender gaps in the energy sector

The energy sector is male-dominated and women earn lower wages than men

In line with previous studies, we find significantly fewer women working in the energy sector compared to men. In relative terms the gap is more than twice as large as it is in the non-energy sector. In addition, wages for female employees are almost 20% lower than for male employees, with the gap being somewhat greater than in non-energy firms. Significantly, the wage gap remains approximately the same when other factors are accounted for, indicating that the gap is not a function of gender differences in skill levels within firms.

The report below draws upon matched employer-employee data collected as part of the OECD LinkEED project. Bringing together employer and employee data in a single framework allows for the analysis of the role of the firm in determining workers' wages, as well as the role of worker characteristics such as skills and gender for firm-level outcomes.

Average gender wage and employment gaps by sector

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Detailed data on gender gaps in employment and wages, senior management, entrepreneurship and innovation

The energy sector has historically been a male-dominated field and its workforce continues to be unrepresentative of the population and workforce at large. On average, there are 76% fewer women than men working in the energy sector, a significant difference from the average 8% gap seen in the total workforce, according to 2018 data from 29 countries (including 22 IEA members).

The barriers women face in the energy sector are similar to those they face elsewhere in the economy. However, there is an urgency for countries to attract and retain a diverse workforce in the energy sector to ensure innovation and the inclusive perspectives needed to successfully navigate the low‑carbon energy transition. The transformation of the sector towards sustainable clean energy sources provides a golden opportunity for greater gender diversity.

Global employment by gender, 2022

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Gender issues and energy access

Nearly one in three people still lack access to clean cooking facilities, disproportionately affecting women and children

Women disproportionately endure the negative consequences of rudimentary cooking, while afforded limited ways to change to cleaner solutions. In addition to health risks, a lack of clean cooking prevents many women and girls from accessing education, earning a wage or starting a business that would deliver financial autonomy.

In many parts of the world, they typically have little say over household spending, with other purchases prioritised over clean cooking devices. Under-representation of women within executive institutions means that clean cooking also remains low on the political agenda.

Population without access to clean cooking in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia in the Stated Policies Scenario, 2010-2030

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Lack of clean cooking fuels forces many women to forage to feed their families, hindering their work options and exposing them to health risks

Some 770 million people live without access to electricity, mostly in Africa and Asia, with the Covid crisis putting an end to several years of continued progress. At the same time, more than 2.5 billion people around the world lack access to clean cooking facilities, relying instead on wood, other solid biomass, kerosene or coal as their primary cooking fuel.

Women bear the brunt of the consequences of not having electricity or clean cooking fuel. The task of collecting firewood or other dirty fuels falls predominantly on them, wasting scarce time and effort. Household air pollution, mostly from cooking smoke, is linked to around 2.5 million premature deaths a year, with women and children being the most exposed. Because women in developing countries often enter the work force through casual sectors such as clothes making or food preparation, lack of electricity access is particularly detrimental to their professional options.

People without access to electricity worldwide, 2012-2022

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Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa

A first of its kind

IEA Clean Cooking Summit

On 14 May, 2024, the IEA convened global leaders for a Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa to make 2024 a turning point for progress on ensuring clean cooking access for all. Co-chaired by President of the United Republic of Tanzania H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, the Prime Minister of Norway H.E. Jonas Gahr Støre, the President of the African Development Bank Group Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, and the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr. Fatih Birol, the Summit brought together over 1000 delegates, including 55 government delegations, convening 4 Heads of Government in Paris, with 23 ministers in attendance, and several Heads of international organisations.

  • Share of Africans still cook their meals over open fires and traditional stoves 80%
  • Financing and investments mobilised at the summit 2.2 billion

This Summit has delivered an emphatic commitment to an issue that has been ignored by too many people, for too long. We still have a long way to go, but the outcome of this Summit, USD 2.2 billion committed, can help support fundamental rights such as health, gender equality and education while also reducing emissions and restoring forests.

Watch the opening session

Our work on energy and gender

Facilitating and exchange of best practices

The IEA Gender Advisory Council was set up by IEA’s Governing Board in June 2021. The Council comprises a number of senior officials from IEA member governments with the purpose of providing direction to the IEA Secretariat and facilitating and exchange of best practices between IEA Family governments on gender equality and inclusion. 

Accelerating gender equality and diversity in the clean energy transition

The Equality in Energy Transitions Initiative (formerly known as C3E International) was created in 2010 as an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) to accelerate gender equality and diversity in the clean energy transitions. In 2017, a decision was taken to organize the Equality Initiative‘s activities as an IEA Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP). This provides a strong foundation to the work and provides additional visibility to the Equality Initiative‘ globally. As a TCP, the Equality Initiative joins a network of 6 000 experts participating in IEA’s energy technology network, which engages in energy research and development, and which can assist with the development of best practices to support the goals of the program.