More power for Chilean women

Female worker assembling the automatically positioned mirrors of the Concentrated Solar Power plant in Calama, Chile

Female worker assembling the automatically positioned mirrors of the Concentrated Solar Power plant in Calama, Chile. Photo: GIZ

Energy topics are largely perceived as being male domains – and this is also the case in Chile. According to a recent study by the Chilean Ministry of Energy, women account for only 10 percent of director and CEO positions in energy companies, whereas the figure for female department heads is 18 percent. By contrast, the proportion of women in the administrative sector is 57 percent.  This is also due to the fact that women are extremely underrepresented in scientific and technical training occupations. In Chile only half as many women pursue a technical career as their male colleagues.

The Ministry’s study calculates that the difference in earnings between women and men in the energy sector is at an average of 24 percent. A more detailed analysis reveals a difference of 38 percent at higher management levels and 40 percent in the administrative sector, which is dominated by women.

Women also face one particular challenge much more frequently than men – and that is being solely responsible for bringing up one or more children in addition to their jobs. Only a quarter of Chilean energy companies offer flexible working hours.

Action plan for strengthening the role of women

To counteract these statistics, the Chilean energy sector is currently drawing up a twelve-part pilot action plan for the advancement of women(’s participation) in the energy sector. This plan is under the auspices of the Ministry of Energy and can be considered as exemplary for the whole of Latin America. In July 2019  40 private and public stakeholders signed a joint declaration to participate in this action plan.#

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH actively co-designed the initiative from the outset and also signed its own action plan in its role as one of the stakeholders.

“There are interesting development opportunities for women, especially in the field of renewable energies,” says Rainer Schröer, Head of the GIZ Energy Programme, which is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as part of the international climate initiative and supports the Chilean Energy Ministry.

Until November 2019, the companies and institutions had time to plan specific activities for their individual lines of action, the implementation of which is expected by 2022. These include:

  • obligations at organisational level
  • support for technical knowledge and skills
  • the elimination of existing discriminations
  • fair gender-oriented processes in sub-contracting
  • working hours and salary adjustments
  • communication strategies to raise awareness for more women in the energy sector

Although involvement is voluntary, the stakeholders undertake in writing to implement the individually-developed activities, which are continuously monitored by the Ministry of Energy.

The success of the current action plan will be measured in 2022. This should encourage further stakeholders to actively participate in the plan and to agree on new and ambitious goals. Other ministries will also adopt the model, triggering a multiplication effect.

Initial interest in the initiative has already been shown by the Colombian Ministry of Energy. Chile is thus positioning itself as an innovation driver for the advancement of women in Latin America as the country sees this move as an integral part of its sustainable energy transition.