Women account for just 14% of workers in the global energy industry, representing a significant loss of opportunity in engaging the best and brightest talent for the sector. If we’re to encourage the next generation of female energy industry workers and leaders, we need to recognise and celebrate women around the globe today, who are at the forefront of industry transformation. That’s why this International Women’s Day, Energy Watch is celebrating female leaders of the energy industry in Asia-Pacific and across the globe.
Celebrating the success of these women in energy has a particular importance in Southeast Asia. Analysis suggest that the number of female employees in the energy industry across the region could be as low as just 3%. That is the tip of a wider challenge to bring more women into the energy industry in the Asia Pacific region. So let’s explore some inspiring female energy leaders in the region and across the globe.
As Chairwoman of world-leading Chinese renewable energy organisation UNISUN Energy Group, Yisha He directs operations in over 100 cities across five continents, placing UNISUN at the forefront of global renewable energy. The success of companies such as UNISUN will be vital in delivering on China’s target of achieving 35% renewable energy of the total electricity generation mix by 2030.
Yisha He devoted herself to the clean energy industry from the start of her career, gaining extensive experience managing and financing renewable projects. Now that her expertise has seen her achieve a position as Chairwoman of UNISUN, she’s keen to see that success leveraged to help others. This commitment saw Yisha He establish Women in Renewables Asia, an organisation with the ambition of achieving equal education, equal pay, and equal leadership to support women in the renewable energy industry.
As Director of the Philippines’ Senate Energy Committee, Teresa’s role is one of vital importance as the nation undergoes a transformation of its energy landscape. Philippines is accelerating its renewable energy transition, aiming at 35% electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030.
Teresa’s impressive career includes roles at the Supreme Court of the Philippines, House of Representatives, and Department of Finance, before going on to focus on energy policy and transformation. She worked on the Energy Reform Project of the Ateneo de Manila University and SSG Advisors, LLC, and the Energy Policy and Development Program of the UPecon Foundation. Her work as Director of the Senate Energy Committee includes oversight of major transformations towards renewable electricity, reducing imported fuel dependency, and improving electrification through new technologies.
Mechthild is the Director of Sustainability, Technology, and Outlooks Division at the International Energy Agency (IEA). She has also held position as Director at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy, in charge of renewables, research and innovation, energy efficiency.
Mechthild Wörsdörfer was instrumental in developing the Energy Union Framework Strategy, Governance, and external aspects, during her tenure as Director for Energy Policy between 2014 and 2017. Her work was key in the development of the EU 2030 emissions reduction target, which targets the European Union (EU) reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030. In her current position at the IEA, she is taking a leading role in steering energy analysis that plays a vital part in informing and supporting global energy policy.
Gauri Singh was recently promoted to Deputy Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a globally respected intergovernmental organisation that supports the transition to sustainable energy.
Women account for 32% of the workforce in the renewable energy industry. While that marks a significantly better engagement than in the energy industry as a whole, it still highlights the need to further engage women in the sector. Gauri Singh has more than 30 years’ experience in policy, advocacy, and project implementation in renewable energy, and is a prominent champion of gender equality to further empower the industry.
Dr Dame Angela Strank is Chief Scientist and Head of Technology, Downstream, for multinational oil giant British Petroleum (BP). In 2010 she won the UK First Women’s Award in Science and Technology, and in 2017 was appointed Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBI) in recognition of her role as a pioneering woman of business and industry. She was the first women to ever receive the prestigious Cadman Award from the Energy Institute.
Having joined BP in 1982 as a geologist in exploration, Dr Dame Angela Strank went on to hold a variety of technical and commercial leadership roles in both upstream and downstream operations. Her own passion for science was inspired by the work of Marie Curie, an iconic 19th century female scientist who conducted pioneering research on radiation. Today, Dr Dame Angela Stark is herself at the forefront of science for the energy industry, inspiring a new generation of women into the sector.
Puan Noor Afifah Binti Abdul Razak is a member of Malaysia’s energy regulator, the Energy Commission, at a time when the organisation is steering vital transformation under the MESI 2.0 electricity industry reforms.
Puan Noor Afifah Binti Abdul Razak graduated from the Universite de Picardie, Amiens, France with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Chemistry in 1992 and 1993 respectively. She has extensive experience informing policy within the energy industry, including a period as Principal Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia from 2003 until 2010.
More recently she took up the role of Deputy-Secretary General for the Energy Sector, under the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change in November 2018. She was appointed to the Energy Commission in December 2018.
Born into an energy industry dynasty, Imelda Harsono is the eldest daughter of Indonesia’s Samator Group President and CEO Arief Harsono. Samator is a major Indonesian conglomerate with significant holdings in the gas industry, and growing expansion into the evolving area of renewable energy.
Imelda has an impressive history of leadership in this traditionally male-dominated industry, working her way up through the ranks to achieve the role of Director of Samator’s industrial gas company PT Aneka Gas. In 2015, Imelda Harsono established her own vision of energy transformation, setting up Samudera Biru. This pioneering renewable energy company focuses on leveraging renewable technologies to support greener, more competitive industry in Indonesia.
For centuries, women from all over the world have fought relentlessly to have their voices heard, their opinions valued and respected. Their sacrifices and determination paved the way for the next generation of women to finally make their way into boardrooms and top positions across their respective industries – very much like the women on this list. While the battle for true equity is far from over, the trailblazing women highlighted here are clear examples that the fields of STEM are open to anyone with a passion for the sciences. In celebration of International Women’s day, Energy Watch honours women leaders of today to remind us exactly how far we have progressed over the past few decades, and to realise that this progress did not come easily. There still remains a long road ahead, but every step forward marks yet another inch of progress that we did not have the day before. Here’s to the next generation of women who will take this battle to new heights using the path the women before them had forged. Happy International Women’s Day!
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