By Ebunoluwa Sessou

The need for more women to explore opportunities in renewable energy has been highlighted in a recently concluded roundtable event organised by Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ.

With the theme: Women in Energy: Leveraging the opportunities in the Renewable Energy, the panellists, Omobola Omofaiye, Chief Commercial Officer, energy; Pamela Adegbite, Group Head, Sales for Commercial and Industrial Sector, Starsight Energy alongside the moderator, Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, Executive Council Member, WIMBIZ, explained that renewable energy is birthed to reduce waste as well as serve as an alternative source of energy for numerous households and businesses.

“There is a deficit in the power sector and 80 million Nigerians do not have access to reliable energy. The opportunities in renewable energy are enormous if the government is ready to reduce the cost of operations. The value chain in solar is huge,” they noted.

Inyembe-Nwankwo, Executive Council Chairperson, WIMBIZ, explained that the reason for organising the roundtable is to bring women together and this is done every month.

“We look for interesting and topical issues to discuss and the reason for this is that we want women to be equipped to take on the world.

“Over the last few months, it has been interesting when you hear about what is going on and you look into the future and you look into renewable energy. The idea is for us to let women understand what renewable energy is.

“Secondly, it is for women to figure out what and how they want to interact with renewable energy. WIMBIZ is an organisation that wants to see more women in leadership across business, management and public service.

“And for many businesswomen, power is a big cost component for these businesses, we want them to see the alternatives and understand how they can use other alternative ways to power their businesses in a long-term, sustainable way that makes them more competitive and to succeed.

“For women who are in the management and private sector, the pandemic has shown us that the world is constantly evolving and we want to encourage women to learn new skills and new areas so that it will be easier for them to move into their careers and explore new innovation. Women are then able to decide if they will work in renewable energy or enter into partnership arrangements for better growth.

“Lastly, we want women in the sector to meet other women in their sector so as to encourage, support and help each other to grow. Ultimately, we want to see more women in renewable energy, more women adopting renewable energy as a way to power their businesses as well as seeing more women in leadership in Nigeria.”

WIMBIZ at 20

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the organisation coming up in November in relation to the roundtable, she said it is significant.

“Twenty years is a milestone, the number of what we have started but yet, we have not finished and for us at WIMBIZ, it is interesting to see that we have stood the test of time and continue to stand the test of time.

“Over the years, WIMBIZ has evolved and the conference will hold between November 1 and 5; we have been putting on new programs and looking back after 20 years to see the journey to empower women, connect women and lots of advocacy for women.

“As part of the 20th anniversary, we will be honouring women who have gone before us and paved the way for us.

 We will be shaping the future for WIMBIZ as well. We will be talking about what is next for WIMBIZ for the next 20 years.

“We also encourage women within their spheres of life to impact their communities and younger generations. We need a pipeline of women to pull along the next generation.”

WOMEN IN STEM

Speaking on opportunities in renewable energy, Adaobi Oniwinde, Policy & Partnerships Manager, All On, advised young girls to take advantage of STEM subjects at the university before starting a career.

“We recognise that fewer women than men are studying STEM. That is a gap that needs to be filled, but there are so many other ways to get into the sector.

“For example, studies show that solar installation is actually one of the fastest-growing jobs in renewable energy. Solar installers are at the core of the industry. We know that even in rural parts of Nigeria, without formal tertiary level education, women are entering the solar installation.

“In the absence of STEM or technical background, there are so many other areas in the sector where women can thrive. The sector needs to do more to offer more diverse, rewarding opportunities in office-based functions such as HR, Finance, Legal, Communications and customer service which are relevant for the growth of the sector.

“For the sector to grow, we need to run public awareness campaigns that educate people on the potential and usefulness of solar for example. You need communications experts to tell impact stories in a way that regular non-technical potential consumers can digest.

“We recognise the need to catch them young. The data isn’t encouraging. Fewer female secondary school and university students are studying STEM courses because the energy sector as a whole, is still male-dominated.

“There is plenty of data to support the need for the inclusion of women earlier on in their careers into the energy sector. We know that a lack of gender equality is a hindrance in the utility industry, particularly when you consider that you need gender equality to boost innovation. Yet the industry isn’t made attractive for women and fewer women feel encouraged to enter or study courses that would naturally lead to a sector they aren’t well represented in.

“On overview of what All On is doing regarding women empowerment in the Renewable Energy sector, she said: “One of the four pillars of All On’s delivery approach is creating an enabling environment for the renewable energy sector in Nigeria to grow. We do this through training and capacity-building, advocacy, enabling regulation and sponsorships of conferences such as the WIMBIZ conference where we have an opportunity to support a home-grown event with an emphasis on women’s career growth and development.

Through our relationship with WIMBIZ, other such partnerships and engagements, we aim to create platforms that help get more women into the energy sector careers and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“This is the right time to engage women in the renewable sector. It’s a relatively nascent sector the world over actually, so Nigeria isn’t that far behind. We have a responsibility to ensure that women are included early and gain top positions from the get-go. This is happening, but not nearly enough.

“These steps are particularly important in a post-Covid world in which numerous studies have shown that women the world over have suffered the most from economic, financial and emotional loss as a direct result of the pandemic.

“Our relationship with WIMBIZ through engagements like this would help get more women into energy sector careers and entrepreneurial opportunities,” she said.

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