Blog: Women in Energy

Strive to Become an Expert, Make Your Path a Pleasant Journey Rather Than an Exhaustive Race 

Ms. Valeria Korcheva, Master student in international law of the National  University “Odessa Law Academy”, came second in the competition organized in the framework of the Autumn Digital EU4Energy Week for EaP Universities. Valeria has a strong and growing interest in the field of energy since the energy sector combines different aspects of economy, ecology and politics. She aspires to become the person who always strives to find the solution to a problem and already now, at the outset of her professional life, thinks about how to balance the growing demand on energy with raising environmental concerns – “We have to integrate energy generation into natural processes in a way to utilize nature’s potential and at the same time avoid its destruction. We have to go with nature, not against it and try to resolve the problem human beings have created”.

Ms. Valeria Korcheva, the second-place winner, Autumn Digital EU4Energy Week for EaP Universities

Valeria took the opportunity and decided to attend the Autumn Digital EU4Energy Week for EaP Universities when her professor suggested participating after the request was sent to EaP universities to nominate students with background and interest in energy. “The interesting agenda coupled with the award – a training course in Brussels on energy immediately caught my attention. The EU4Energy Week for EaP universities helped me to consolidate my interest towards this field and acquire new knowledge from high-level experts [from the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Energy Community (EnC)].

Having no background, but only pure interest towards the field of energy, I challenged myself and almost a month later I am sitting here giving my very first interview. With that being said, I hope that people will see my case as proof that when you follow your interests, make an effort and invest in what you like – it will definitely pay off. Do not consider yourself to become an expert in a moment – that’s a journey worth walking rather than a race full of stress and exhaustion. Enjoy it!”

Being at the outset of her career, Valeria finds the responsibility for other people and their trust to be an important aspect of her improvement. “I am willing to provide guidance if I know that’s within my competence to help. I have never considered leadership a good thing for showing how meaningful and powerful someone is – it is more about caring for people you are willing to take responsibility for, as you trust them, and they trust you”.

In response to girls and women empowerment and how to handle underrepresentation of women in science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics (STEM) fields, Valeria thinks that today there are more and more opportunities for everyone to find their place in life, so the perspectives are brighter for women.

Furthermore, boys/men have been from a very early age brought up to be the breadwinners and main financial contributors in the family. “Mothers used to have higher expectations with regards to their sons that they have a prestigious high-paid job, and so did fathers. Technical jobs are known to be in preference worldwide, and as men are traditionally expected to protect the family and be the main financial supporters, they are more likely to be motivated and encouraged to apply for jobs in the STEM field. Still, today women can share these responsibilities with them. I think that’s what helps both in securing a stronger support within families and finding one’s happiness in the professional way he/she chooses.”

Both big and small efforts, like the one made by the EU4Energy Programme, increase the visibility and motivation of girls/women to engage in the STEM fields. “My advice to those girls who are choosing their field of study or making their first steps in their profession would be: always try to become an expert and maintain a positive mindset.”

EU4Energy promotes gender equality and encourages greater participation and visibility of women in the energy sector through a series of interviews on its Blog: Women in Energy. The aim of the Blog is to promote professions in the energy/power sector towards women and raise awareness about the women who contribute to its development, as well as about promising women who are taking their first steps in the profession. The Blog aims to encourage the young female generation to choose a profession in the energy/power sector and discover the advantages and adventures associated with it.

 

 

Recognising, Promoting and Celebrating the Success of Women


“We have to recognize, promote and celebrate high achievements of women, as it is very encouraging for a new generation to see that many women, despite going through a very difficult path, have fulfilled their goals and ambitions. Those women managed to strike a balance between their roles and responsibilities in the family and professional advancement. The beauty of success is when you manage to level off all aspects of life - being family, friends, social responsibilities, and professional opportunities,” says Dr. Tamar Sulukhia, Director of International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) and ISET Policy Institute.

ISET Policy Institute has developed a Gender Equality Index1  for the twelve Post Soviet Union countries (with the exception of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) using data from the World Bank, United Nations (UN), International Labour Organization (ILO), World Health Organization (WHO) and individual countries and applying the methodology of the European Institute for Gender Equality. The index is looking at gender equality in six key domains: power, work, money, knowledge, time and health. The work domain measures the extent to which women can benefit from equal access to employment and good working conditions, the power domain studies gender equalities in decision making positions across political, economic and social spheres and the money domain measures gender equality in terms of access to financial resources. 

The research shows an imbalance between the share of men and women in the share of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professions, depriving science and technology of a greater opportunity for innovation, as increased women’s engagement often promotes greater innovation and greater creativity. Furthermore, there is evidence that when teams are gender balanced, those teams are more creative and achieve higher/better results or achieve those results in a more efficient and timely manner. Energy sector utilities having at least 30% of women in the boards have higher profit margins. These results clearly demonstrate why gender equality should concern everyone; not only women or human rights advocates. Companies with strong female leadership deliver higher return on equity; companies with female executive board members outperform those with male-only boards.

However, there are many obstacles and challenges that have an influence on women’s representation in the STEM field. Examples include the pay-gap between women and men, which lowers women’s ambition and motivation to excel in the profession, as well as the imbalance between genders in the process of recruitment. The statistics show that in many fields, including energy and other infrastructure sectors, there is a tendency and even preference to recruit male professionals rather than women. This deprives women of the opportunity to advance in their careers and improve their quality of life, but also deprives companies of the benefits of a gender-balanced team. 

In the energy sector women only account for 22% of workforce, while 48% of global workforce are women. Only 6% of women are executive board members and less than 1% of women are CEOs in the oil and gas industries. 

In response to the question how universities can help to improve gender underrepresentation in STEM related professions, Dr. Sulukhia noted that according to UNESCO data, 35% of students are women in STEM professions and only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Consequently, gender inequality starts from university and is later translated into fewer women in STEM professions. However, a lot of initiatives have been directed to promote female participation and involvement in STEM sectors starting from school and universities. To make the transition from university to professional life, university professors and deans could offer mentorship and guidance to female students, as well as ensure recommendations for internships and provider more scholarships to female students, etc. A huge accomplishment would be to introduce quotas for women representation in boards and committees which is a verified standard. Moreover, other measures like making job advertisement more female friendly, saying women are encouraged to apply or including female members in job selection committees/boards might also have a positive effect.

Dr. Sulukhia says that the attraction and recruitment of women to the energy sector could be done through changing social norms, encouraging role-models, whereas for the retention of women in the sector it is very important to create female friendly, harassment free environment/facilities, equal pay policy and to retain healthy work-life balance.

EU4Energy promotes gender equality and encourages greater participation and visibility of women in the energy sector through a series of interviews on its Blog: Women in Energy. The aim of the Blog is to promote professions in the energy/power sector towards women and raise awareness about the women who contribute to its development, as well as about promising women who are taking their first steps in the profession. The Blog aims to encourage the young female generation to choose a profession in the energy/power sector and discover the advantages and adventures associated with it. 

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