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Women, Gender, and Politics

N17(b) - Toward Infrastructures of Equality: Examining the Role of Women in Sustainable Energy Transitions II

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SWING 205

Chair/Président/Présidente : Christina Hoicka (York University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Cornelia Fraune (Technische Universität Darmstadt)


Session Abstract: This 2 panel series brings together and international and interdisciplinary group of scholars to examine recent theoretical and empirical developments in gender and energy research. Panel 1 focuses on the theoretical and conceptual issues raised by the role of women in energy transitions, while panel two focuses on specific empirical, sectoral and country cases. A global transition to sustainable energy systems is more important than ever and will likely attract increasing investment from public and private sectors in the next decade (OECD, 2017; REN21, 2017). According to a recent Global Commission on Environment and Economy report, energy transitions will require more than $90billion in investment to meet 2 degree climate targets set in Paris (Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, 2018). While the global benefits of climate mitigation might be obvious in terms of disaster planning and resilience, political economy and equity issues in terms of employment, local investment, and decision making power are far less clear (Barry, 2012), as are their implications for climate policy effectiveness. Gender inequalities are particularly acute within the energy sector, where the fuels (renewable or non-renewable) we use to power our homes, transport systems, schools, and businesses, are produced, shared, and consumed (Daggett, 2018). However, we know very little as to how these gender differences manifest within and between countries. Interdisciplinary scholarship on the implications of gender imbalances in the sector and climate mitigation and adaptation is developing rapidly, but with increasing calls for detailed empirical research in diverse national contexts.


Interventions and Solutions to Advance Gender Equity in the Renewable and Clean Energy Sectors in Canada: Joanna Osawe (Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE) Canada)
Abstract: Organizational diversity improves the bottom line, the ability to navigate change, the adoption of innovation and new technologies, and offers many other benefits for the power sector. Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) is a not for profit corporation run by volunteers, operating as a network that engages over 3000 people per month with chapters across Canada. This case study describes the structure of the WiRE network and how, since 2013, WiRE has successfully engaged a wide range of actors across the energy, environment, education, and innovation sectors to provide interventions and solutions that advance the role and recognition of women working in renewable and clean energy across Canada.


Reconstructing Gendered Narratives for Inclusive Energy Transitions: Jenny Lieu (Transdisciplinarity Lab (USYS TdLab) / ETH Zürich), Oliver Johnson (Stockholm Environment Institute), Alevgul Sorman (Basque Centre for Climate Change), Bernadette P. Resurrección (Stockholm Environment Institute)
Abstract: Transitions toward a low-carbon future are not only socio-technical, but also deeply political and gendered. However, dominant framings around low-carbon energy transitions often give limited attention to political and gender dynamics of energy transitions, such as impacts on power relations, gender roles and social equity. Here, we explore the ways in which energy transition narratives consider political and gender dynamics. We specifically aim to understand how masculinities and femininities manifest in energy transition narratives and their implications in decision making spaces across different scales. We draw on existing narratives of energy transitions across three geographical settings and scales: Kenya, Canada and Spain. In Kenya, we look into large-scale geothermal power development in community landscapes; in the province of Alberta, Canada, we scrutinize pluralities of perspectives at the large-scale development of oil sands sector; while in Spain, we evaluate emerging narratives at the macro-political level in the deployment of renewable technologies. In these case studies, we evaluate the role of masculinities and femininities in considering issues of ethics, values, institutions, belief and power in energy decision making, and explore the potential of “gender sensitive narratives”. We find in our case studies that dominant energy transition narratives are masculine in character and require a diverse perspective to be more inclusive and representative. We synthesize our findings to support the (re)construction of narratives based on framings that embrace a multitude of actors and positions and to facilitate a more inclusive, transparent and multi-scale energy decision-making process in formal and informal institutions.

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Empowering Women’s Work? Analysing the Role of Women in New Zealand’s Energy Sector: Julie MacArthur (University of Auckland)
Abstract: Energy infrastructure and services are projected to grow significantly due to the large climate investment required in the coming years, so there is increasing attention being paid to the potential co-benefits of thoughtful transitions plans that include women. Recent research suggests that a gender-inclusive environment is especially important for the energy sector because of women’s tendency to view issues like climate change mitigation, new renewable energy sources and the environmental benefits of electric vehicles more positively than their male counterparts. Others have pointed to the gendered framing and nature of green transitions themselves, arguing that resistance to cleaner, greener practices is deeply tied to problematic ideas of maleness and masculinity. Understanding women’s participation in the energy sector is particularly salient in New Zealand at the present historical juncture, since the new Labour-led government has committed to a long-term transition to a sustainable, carbon neutral economy by 2050 and 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, but with little explicit mention of the role of women. The current government is also committed to reducing the country’s gender pay gap, attributable in part to significant differences in pay between technology and service industries. This paper focuses on understanding the current gender composition of the New Zealand energy sector in 2018. In it I investigate women’s employment share in industry, roles, seniority level and sub-industrial concentration, with the aim of setting the groundwork for further work unpacking the political economy and policy impacts of these differences for energy policy goals.