Pacific Women in Power Program launched to increase women’s participation in the energy sector

Honorable Ro Filipe Tuisawau, Fiji Minister for Public Works, Transport & Meterological Services, and Mitsunori Motohashi, Pacific Hub Energy Program Coordinator of the World Bank, mark the formal launch of the Pacific Women in Power Program at the 5th PRTEMM in Vanuatu

[Thursday 11 May 2023 – Port Vila, Vanuatu] The Pacific Power Association (PPA) and the World Bank today launched the Pacific Women in Power (PWIP) Program at the 5th Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers Meeting being held in Port Vila, Vanuatu. In collaboration with the Pacific Community (SPC), the program will support the increase of women’s employment as engineers, scientists and leaders in the energy sector.

The Pacific Women in Power Program’s objective is to enhance women’s employment and economic empowerment across various Pacific Island energy institutions including ministries, utilities and the private sector.

“We know that increasing women’s employment in energy, a traditionally male dominated sector, is good for business,” Ms. Helle Buchhave, Global Gender Lead with the Social Inclusion Practice of the World Bank, said. “Globally, we see that promoting a gender diverse workforce has resulted in better employee retention, better financial performance, greater innovation, improved service delivery and safer operating environment.”

Ms Buchhave added: “The World Bank has estimated that on average, and in the long run, GDP per capita would be around 22% higher for Pacific islands if employment rates for women were to match men.”

Pacific Women in Power objectives and partners
The Pacific Women in Power Program objective builds on and compliments the PPA’s mission to support its energy utility members to promote and advance gender equality within a diverse and
motivated workforce. 

“Expanding and modernizing the energy sector is vital since the limited availability of energy constrains human and economic development,” PPA Acting Executive Director, Gordon Chang said. “The PPA believes that the investments being made in energy, and increasingly in renewable energy in the Pacific, can be a springboard for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Pacific Women in Power Program is a groundbreaking initiative to support our efforts in this area.”

Pacific Women in Power will also align with SPC’s Pacific Energy and Gender Strategic Action Plan (PEGSAP – 2020-2030) to mainstream gender in the clean energy sector and to address gender imbalance.

“SPC is greatly encouraged that the Pacific Women in Power Program aligns with the objectives of PEGSAP, as the endorsed blueprint for empowering women in the energy sector,” Ms Mereseini
Rakuita, SPC’s Principal Strategic Lead – Pacific Women and Girls, said. “SPC, as the Secretariat to the 2 Pacific Energy Gender Initiative (PEGI) Regional Steering Committee, which has oversight of the implementation of PEGSAP, looks forward to ongoing and close collaboration with the Word Bank and PPA. This collaboration is key, as it will ensure national ownership and sustainability of such initiatives beyond the life of projects.”

Vanuatu’s case for change
Commenting on the Pacific Women in Power Program, Vanuatu’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, highlighted the importance of having women participating in the energy sector, particularly in management.

“In our communities, from household level up, women are always the managers and so they need to be encouraged and trained on energy technologies, and also the management aspects of energy,” Hon. Regenvanu said. “In fact, as a government, we recognize that where women are involved in institutions’ management committees, such as in our water sector where policy and legislation was enacted to support women in leadership, that entity is better managed. I believe we will find this to be the same for the energy sector and welcome this initiative by the World Bank.”

Bold renewable energy targets require bold workforce transformation
“Most Pacific nations have impressive and ambitious renewable energy targets that call for large investment and change,” Mitsunori Motohashi, Pacific Hub Energy Program Coordinator of the World Bank, said while addressing the Pacific officials and ministers of energy and transport in Vanuatu this week.

“Transformation of the energy sector will also require transformation of the energy workforce,” Mr Motohashi said. “Power utilities across the Pacific face major challenges, including retaining a qualified workforce. In this context, women represent an untapped labour pool, and a great opportunity for the energy sector as it evolves, particularly with heightened renewable energy targets.”

In the Pacific, less than a quarter of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce is female.

“Under the Pacific Women in Power Program, the World Bank will be gathering data and helping energy institutions design and invest in future and current innovations, partnerships and policies to increase women’s participation in the energy sector,” Ms Buchhave explained. “The Program will also provide the opportunity to exchange with peers in other regions who also target a more gender diverse energy workforce.”

“We want this program to have some really practical outcomes to help shift the dial in the Pacific energy sector to enhance equality for women,” Ms Buchhave added. 

• For further information, please contact Ms. Reena Fiu, Administrative Officer, Pacific Power
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• Follow the hashtag #PacificWomenInPower on socials for updates on PWIP