Women's participation in the solar industry is critical to India's net zero ambitions
As India strives to reach its net zero target by 2070, it is estimated to generate more than 50 million new jobs in the renewable energy (RE) sector. However, this cannot be accomplished without actively encouraging more women to enter the workforce.
The renewable energy sector is anticipated to employ over a million people by 2030, with new opportunities in infrastructure development, low-carbon manufacturing, and other segments. If women do not have the requisite skills, capital, and networks now, they are likely to miss out on this job opportunity.
On average, women only make up about 11% of the solar sector employment in India, significantly less than the global average of 32%. A McKinsey report has estimated that by offering equal opportunities to women, India can add 770 billion USD, or over 18%, to its GDP by 2025.
Hence, we must ensure that the energy transition gives women a greater opportunity to influence a shift that is fair, sustainable, and inclusive. Additionally, we need to provide public and private sector entry points to attract more women to related fields.
Women hold only a few jobs in the rooftop solar value chain. They make up about 18% of the design and pre-construction workforce, 34% of the corporate workforce, 3% of the construction and commissioning workforce, and a mere 1% of the operations and maintenance workforce.
The safety and security concerns on construction sites are one of the direct factors contributing to the lack of opportunities for women in the RE sector. Biased assumptions about women's abilities, particularly in certain roles, have also led to the underrepresentation of women in the workforce.
It is important to remember that women often do not receive the same level of assistance or training as their male counterparts who work in the same field. As a result, it is challenging for women to move up in their career.
Constraints for women in the RE sector
A portion of women work on project sites in the renewable energy sector, undertaking transitory civil masonry work, and have minimal involvement in future growth. But if more women work in the RE sector, it can help with two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): gender equality and environmentally friendly economic growth.
Without proper education and training, women are less likely to work in the RE industry. However, it is essential to note that the advantage of a sector rises in proportion to the number of skilled women working in it. At the same time, the quality of life for women and their families will improve if public, business, and government policies work together to encourage women to work in the clean energy sector.
Overall, women's participation in formal and technical aspects of technology design and innovation is becoming increasingly significant in the energy sector. Yet, women in the solar business continue to face challenges in getting secure employment and a promising career.
A cognitive approach
India is a pioneer nation in the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and has ambitious plans for the adoption of renewable energy. The National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) and the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ) have established industry training facilities. Now, the time has come to incorporate gender equity into skill development programmes and training.
The rise of female talent in RE will further benefit the sector's growth. In line with this, the national goals for skilling up should include a focus on teaching and training women in this field.
Likewise, policymakers should hasten gender-targeted measures to ensure the sector's development and to support companies in moving toward gender parity. By giving funds and other resources to these projects, we can ensure that more women have a chance to succeed in this critical field.
Creating more opportunities for women
Women with less formal education may be able to master new skills if training institutes lower the entry barrier. A lack of social security measures to protect women from illness, childbirth, old age, and job loss are other things that make women less likely to work.
There is room for improvement, and we can contribute to it by providing training for our staff and instituting incentives for female employees. To attract and retain more women on staff, we can provide benefits like internships and maternity leaves. Creating programs and policies that give women in the renewable energy industry equal access to employment is one way to encourage more women to enter the field.
Energy-related activities must develop frameworks that promote several SDGs while also mainstreaming women along the whole value chain. It is critical to provide women with opportunities in the renewable sector. No nation can hope to realise its lofty ambitions without the active participation of a large part of its population.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan