Speaking during the 18th Pipeline Technology Conference in Berlin, Grace Orife, CEO of Adelaar Energy and Advisory Board Member of the AEC, delivered a powerful keynote address on bridging the diversity gap across the pipeline value chain.
Despite representing half of the global population, women continue to face inequality across the energy sector, and the pipeline value chain is not exempt in this regard. Delivering a keynote address during the 18th Pipeline Technology Conference (PTC) in Berlin, Grace Orife, CEO of Adelaar Energy and Advisory Board Member of the African Energy Chamber (AEC) – which launched the African Women Business Energy Network (AWBEN), a supporter of the PTC – advocated for a more equitable and diverse workplace across the industry.
Historically, women have accounted for a small portion of the energy sector workforce, with challenges associated with inclusivity and access to digital, professional and educational tools preventing them from taking their seat at the table.
Representing AWBEN at the PTC, Orife stated that, “Often, women are only perceived as homemakers and caregivers, this leads to men being favored in getting promotions because they are more visible in the office. By correcting this skewedness and allowing time for both parties to care for their families, both are given equal opportunities. Though flexible working arrangements and parental leave may mean more time working away from the office, the focus should not be placed on where you work but, on the work, achieved. By recruiting a candidate based on their abilities, evaluating an employee’s performance based on their accomplishments, and rewarding them for their success through performance reward systems, we are contributing towards a progressive industry.”
Notwithstanding the need to improve equality from an education and business perspective, Orife expanded on the need to advance inclusivity and participation across managerial roles. For years, once women have managed to break the glass ceiling, so to speak, and be part of the energy sector workforce, new challenges associated with recruitment for senior positions in the sector emerge.
“It is vital to address the low percentage of women in management roles across the industry because research suggests that companies with more female board members are more profitable. One of the most frequent routes to the boardroom, according to a World Bank report, is through the C-suite, yet women are underrepresented there. In the Middle East, for example, only 1.6 percent of CEOs are female compared to 4.1 percent in Asia and 7 percent in Africa. Based on an OECD/IEA data review from nearly 2,500 firms classified in energy-related sectors, women account for barely 14 percent in senior managerial positions,” Orife stated.
As such, action needs to be taken to set diversity targets; empower women in the energy workforce; improve access to education, investment and partnerships; and create equal opportunities for all.
“I wish to reiterate that by setting diversity targets in your various companies and organizations, you are not compromising on quality. DE&I should be a key factor in the leadership constitution of every business, no matter the industry. The conversations surrounding gender inequality and inequity must include men; the discussions must also acknowledge intersectionality, which is an analytical framework for understanding how a person’s various social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege,” Orife continued.
Recognizing this equality, the AEC launched the AWBEN with the aim of combatting lack of inclusivity and diversity by creating a platform that empowers women in the energy workforce. During her address, Orife provided insight into the platform, stating that, “As a member of the advisory board of the AEC, which is at the forefront of Africa’s energy industry, we launched the AWBEN to improve women’s inclusion and professional advancement throughout the region’s energy value chain. AWBEN is a fully dedicated platform on a mission to connect and empower women-in-energy, as well as increase the number of women-owned energy enterprises in Africa and consequently drive direct business profit into the hands of women in the region. So, I am delighted to share that AWBEN, alongside AEC, is a proud supporter of this year’s PTC.”
AWBEN, alongside other impactful initiatives, continues to make strides towards creating a more equal society. With the energy sector representing one of the key drivers of economic growth worldwide, powering industry and accelerating progress, tackling gender inequality and lack of participation is key, and will set a benchmark for other sectors worldwide.
“We, together with employers of labor, must look beyond race, class, and religion because in the end, an inclusive and diverse company sets itself up for innovation, creativity, a broader range of skills, improved cultural awareness and increased industry opportunities,” Orife concluded.
For more information about the AWBEN, visit www.energychamber.org/awben/