Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN)
This project brings together people who are interested in improving gender balance and promoting diversity in energy-related matters in the Nordic and Baltic societies. There is a general perception that…
This project brings together people who are interested in improving gender balance and promoting diversity in energy-related matters in the Nordic and Baltic societies. There is a general perception that the Nordic countries have a high level of equality and gender balance in the energy sector, as in many other sectors – but statistics and experiences tell a different story. The aim of NEEN is to highlight these issues and develop tools for improving gender balance and diversity in the energy sector.
The initiative for a Nordic Energy Equality Network came in 2017, when Nordic Energy Research gathered 36 people to identify challenges and come up with solutions to accelerate change and reduce the gender gap in the energy sector and ensure that women’s knowledge and experience will be used efficiently in the future. The participants, coming from academia, energy industry and funding agencies, agreed to start a network for continuing this work.
How are women accelerating the sustainable energy transition? Five Nordic perspectives
Vaasa Climate Change Conference & Networking Forum, 27th September 2019.
Conference participants gathered on Friday morning to listen to presentations by women in the energy sector from the five Nordic countries. The session “How are women accelerating the sustainable energy transition?” was organised by the Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN). NEEN aims to bring voices together from the whole sector such as academia, government and business, and this was reflected by the five speakers’ different backgrounds.
The first to speak was journalist and senior consultant Viktoria Raft, who is one of the initiators of the Swedish network Kraftkvinnorna. Kraftkvinnorna was established in 2015 with the purpose to make women in the energy sector more visible. The network works to highlight role models to attract more women to the sector, and to increase the share of women in steering boards and management groups. Raft spoke about the fact that the energy sector needs to attract more women not only because of the equality issue but simply because it needs to be revitalized; a lot of people are approaching retirement and recruitment of people of all genders is necessary. At the same time, the energy sector faces higher demand for customer friendly solutions and adaptation to smart technology. Raft underlined the importance of attracting people from different backgrounds, cultures and ages, because this mix of diverse perspectives is what will make a difference to make the sector succeed with these challenges.
Next speaker was professor Marie Münster from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). Münster has worked within the fields of energy planning and renewable energy technologies since 2000 and highlighted in her presentation some of the arguments for equality as a necessary component in the energy sector. She pointed out research showing that climate change can be solved, if women are involved in the workforce. In a so called full potential scenario, where women and men have equal roles to play in the labour market, the global annual GDP could be increased more than enough to fund the battle against climate change. Münster emphasized the importance of every gender being represented, and quoted Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation: “Gender Equality is not only a matter of concern for women; it must matter to all of us. If we want to take scientific excellence to the next level; if we want to deliver science-based solutions to the many urgent and pressing global challenges, we need all talents in play.” Münster finished by encouraging women in the sector demand the salary they deserve, promote and give women recognition and supplement each other.
Pirjo Jantunen, business development manager at Helen in Finland, was the session’s third speaker. Jantunen works with the development of smart building solutions and the improvement of organisations’ and stakeholders’ responsibility in shaping the energy system of tomorrow. Jantunen spoke about the importance about diversity at workplaces, again arguing that this is necessary to boost the green energy transition. Different backgrounds create different thoughts, and in the end a more innovative workforce. Jantunen explained the lack of diversity by pointing at the energy industry as quite stable, and when maintaining this stability, the group of employees continues being homogenous. She moved on to talk about research showing levels of bias, and that stereotypes about male and female values run deep in our culture. Jantunen argued that this is visible from childhood and how children are raised, which in the end may affect education and career choices. She stressed the importance of encouraging girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, but also that the energy sector should challenge stereotypes and recruit outside STEM as well. Jantunen finished by pointing at a person challenging these stereotypes, climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was clearly in the spotlight after giving a speech at the UN Climate Summit in New York the same week.
Fourth speaker was Karina Barnholt Klepper, senior consultant at Nordic Energy Research, a Nordic organisation based in Norway. Barnholt Klepper is also chair of NEEN and spoke about the process and the drivers that led to the establishment of the network, working for gender equality and diversity in the Nordic energy sector. She followed up on Jantunens message on boys and girls stereotypes and made an example from Norwegian documentary series “F-ordet” where actress and activist Ulrikke Falch investigates how “feminist” has become a negative word. In the series, Falch looks at Norwegian high school students’ choice of education programmes and finds that traditional gender stereotypes in many ways persists, not only in education choices but also when it comes to lifestyles. Barnholt Klepper concluded that there is a substantial challenge ahead, to change societies expectations based on gender roles.
The morning’s fifth and last speaker was Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, former Icelandic Minister of Energy. Árnadóttir brought up the latest report published by Women in Icelandic Energy 2019, “Gender Diversity in the Icelandic Energy Sector”, and concluded that the report shows that things are improving, especially in Icelandic board rooms, but that there still is a long way to go. Árnadóttir confirmed that by her experience, the so-called glass ceiling situations happens often to women in both business and politics. A woman that takes a lot of space is often perceived as a threat. Árnadóttir also agreed with the previous speakers regarding diversity, stressing that diversity makes economic sense and is good for business.
The session continued with a panel debate moderated by Suvi Karirinne, director of Vaasa Energy Business Innovation Centre. Karirinne started by bringing up the fact that the higher up in academia one looks, the less percentage of women there is. What is going wrong?
Münster confirmed that in her field, many women are educated in the field but do not continue as engineers and suggested that part of the reason was so-called stumbling blocks that will make women leave. The balance between family and work life is one of these stumbling blocks and happens for example when classes are scheduled in the evenings, making it difficult for young women with families to attend. Another fact is that researcher’s success in their careers is often dependent on doing a couple of years abroad, which seems to be no obstacle for men but for women it can be a challenge. Raft argued that this again had to do with gender stereotypes and expectations, indicating that there is an unbalance in society. Árnadóttir commented that the general impression is that men and women are equal in 2019, but we are still discussing the same issues since we have not achieved the equality level.
The panel also discussed the issue of quotation and competence. Münster noted that women tend to ask themselves if they are skilled enough for a position and if they were chosen because of their gender. She pointed out that a man would hardly ask himself that, and that women simply need to realise that they are qualified and that this is enough. Barnholt Klepper added that research environments tend to require more of women; more papers and better papers. However, for a woman taking time off for maternity leave, this simply will not add up. Árnadóttir agreed that women often face unfair standards and that there is always a “but”: She is well educated but difficult to work with, she is qualified but might not be able to work overtime, and so on. Árnadóttir concluded by saying that the rules of the game were made by men centuries ago and it needs to change:
“We are finally on the guest list, we are invited to the party, but it is not enough – we need to be the party planners.”
Representing five different countries and five different parts of the energy sector, the speakers clearly had similar experiences as well as outlooks for the future. There was an agreement on the importance of inclusion, diversity and about bringing all perspectives into the task of accelerating the sustainable energy transition. Finally, all agreed that despite its flaws when it comes to questions on gender and diversity, the energy sector is also very fun to work within. The job is motivating and has an impact on sustainability, and the sector definitely has an important job to do with communicating this in order to attract a more diverse workforce.
Towards an equal and diverse energy sector – launch of the Nordic Energy Equality Network
26 September, 2019
Reducing carbon emissions and dependence of fossil fuels is crucial in combating climate change. The energy issue is already in focus, but despite the transition towards sustainable energy being a process that concerns everyone, not all perspectives are always included. The energy sector suffers from lack of equality and diversity, even in the Nordic countries. The Nordic Energy Equality Network has been launched with the aim of becoming the Nordic umbrella for the promotion of gender diversity and empowerment of women, forming a Nordic voice for an inclusive sustainable energy transition.
The official launch of the Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN) gathered major stakeholders in the energy sector from all five Nordic countries on 26 September in Vaasa, Finland. Karina Barnholt Klepper, Chair of the Steering Board, shared NEEN’s vision to ensure gender equality and diversity in developing the energy of tomorrow. NEEN will do this by making the energy sector increasingly visible to women and highlighting role models.
Representatives from the academic, industrial and public sector were all present during the launch. National networks such as Kraftkvinnorna from Sweden and Women in Energy Iceland shared their success stories of increasing gender equality in the energy sector while pointing out that there is still a long way to go. “We have a lot of work to do, but it’s really encouraging that we can do it together.”, said Viktoria Raft from Kraftkvinnorna.
NEEN was founded with the belief that the sustainable energy transition is far too important to only be decided upon by a narrow section of society. The energy issue affects everyone and is a question about mindsets, structures and cultures that should include all perspectives of society. Diversity is proven to increase creativity, and creativity is a much-needed component in the energy sector at this defining moment.
The first step towards NEEN’s mission was taken on 27th September at the Vaasa Climate Change Conference and Networking Forum 2019, wherein a panel discussion on the topic ‘How are women accelerating the sustainable energy transition?’ was organized by NEEN. The session highlighted the role of women in the transition towards a low-climate impact energy system and how their engagement is crucial for the sector and for society at large in mitigating climate change. Ragnheiður Elin Árnadóttir, Former Icelandic Minister of Industry and Commerce highlighted that “diversity makes economic sense and leads to better decision making, better management and greater innovation”.
NEEN will strive to make the energy sector increasingly visible to women and highlight role models in order to attract more women to the field, and aim to build bridges between education, research, government and industry while promoting an inclusive approach through the whole sector.
The Network Taking Shape - Outcomes from 2019 meeting, Oslo
Key members of the Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN) assembled for a two-day meeting in Oslo on April 2nd and 3rd, 2019. The group was made up of women working in the energy sector across the Nordic region, as well as representatives from Nordic Energy Research.
The purpose of the meeting was to gather a “task force” to define the mission of NEEN, decide on the organisational structure of the network and plan future activities.
The group began by mapping the current landscape of women’s organisations in the energy sector in order to determine what NEEN’s place in this landscape should be.
Nanna Baldvinsdóttir – Business Development Manager at Landsvirkjun, Iceland – gave a brief summary of other energy equality organisations, both national and international, and their focus areas. It was noted that organisations for women in energy exist in Iceland and Sweden, but not in the other Nordic countries. Kati Veijonen, Senior Adviser at the Department of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland joined the meeting via Skype to give a presentation on Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Technology Collaboration Program (C3E TCP). Currently Finland and Sweden are the only Nordic member countries of the C3E TCP, but it was noted that Norway might join soon too.
Following this mapping the group turned their focus to brainstorming the goals of NEEN, and the operating and management structure of the network. On April 3rd, having reviewed the notes from the previous day, the participants agreed on a mission statement for the network:
NEEN’s objective is to be the Nordic umbrella for the promotion of gender diversity and empowerment of women, forming a Nordic voice for an inclusive sustainable energy transition.
The task force continued by discussing the operating and management structure of NEEN, to be outlined in the network’s statutes. The group agreed that five Nordic countries should be represented in the steering board, but not be limited to these – representatives from Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland may also be included in the future. It was further decided that one board member from each participating country does not necessarily mean “by nationality.” A member may, for example, represent Denmark even if she’s not Danish.
It was also suggested that the Nordic Energy Equality Network will be officially launched on September 26 at the Vaasa Climate Change and Networking Forum Conference. Suggestions for the topic of NEEN’s session at the conference, such as “local solutions”, “female solutions to climate change challenges” and “innovative and sustainable ways to fight climate change”. More information about the event will follow.
Reducing the gender gap in the energy sector - Outcomes from 2018 Seminar
In order to ensure a more sustainable development in the energy sector, more female values must be included.
This was one of the main conclusions at the annual seminar held by Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN) where professionals in the Nordic energy industry met to discuss action plans, and share experiences and best practices when working for gender diversity.
“I came to this meeting, because after 10 years in the business, it has become clear to me that the diversity level is not what it should be” says Johannah Maher, Vice Director, Head of Global Value Engineering at Vestas, Denmark. Her statement corresponds with many of the 45 other men and women who, along with Maher, participated in the second seminar of the Nordic Energy Equality Network (NEEN) in Copenhagen, 25-26 September 2018.
For a long time, energy has been an issue which has been handled in business and political contexts. These are areas that traditionally have been dominated by men.
“Energy can be described in very different terms. My research shows that when energy is put into the context of industry it is a very different group of people discussing than when it is put into environmental frames,” says Research Fellow at Swedish Linköbing University Ann-Sofi Kall. “Energy involves so much more than technology and economy. It is a question of who is included, and clearly we need to include the female perspective,” Kall emphasizes.
The female approach is missing
During the seminar Kall’s conclusions were confirmed by other speakers and participants.
“The barrier for a transition to more sustainable renewable energy systems is not lack of technology. It is mindsets, structures and cultures,” Ph.D. candidate at Vaasa University Petra Berg stated.
New technology starts on micro-level with innovations in all kinds of directions, and only a few will reach the macro-level and survive as new paradigms. If a more sustainable transition is desired, the female approach should be present at all stages of innovation. Therefore, Berg emphasizes, gender diversity at all levels will be essential for going in a more sustainable direction.
Even if gender diversity seems crucial it is worth noting that it could be beneficial to take norms into account, instead of focusing on physical gender. One participant, Mehmet Bulut from Swedish Energy Agency, pointed out:
“Maybe the women who make a career in the energy industry today, replicate the habits of their male managers, and it might have to do with typical masculine and feminine norms more than the actual gender.”
Helga Jóhannsdóttir from RARIK – Iceland State Electricity agreed: “It’s an interesting question. I have been in this industry for many years, and all the bosses have been male, so I’ve always worked with men. Maybe you become blind to the existing norms, so female leaders copy male leaders.
See links to presentations from the seminar below, or in the “Downloads & Media” module.
Women in the energy race - Outcomes from 2017 seminar
In November 2017 Nordic Energy Research gathered 36 people, including high profile professionals in the Nordic energy sector, to identify challenges, present solutions to accelerate change and reduce the gender gap in the energy sector, and ensure an efficient use of women’s knowledge and experience in the future. Diversity and gender equality is not an HR issue, it’s a business issue and a performance issue. To only utilize 50 % of the available creative mindpower is a bad business decision for anyone who wants to stay ahead in the energy race.
As in many other sectors, the general impression is that there is a high level of equality and gender balance in the Nordic countries, but statistics and experiences tell a different story. This became, once again, evident at the seminar where the energy industry, funding authorities and academia from the Nordic countries, as well as from Latvia and Lithuania, gathered to discuss the issue.
“This seminar was a good start for the future action and cooperation in order to change the status quo,” said Pirjo Jantunen, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Helen Ltd in Finland, and Chair of the Future Energy Leaders at the World Energy Council.
The participants were focused on driving change, and they made recommendations for improvement to all sectors represented at the seminar on how to increase the creative mindpower in the sector. The seminar also concluded in several sector specific recommendations (see below).
“The discussions were great. It is important to turn words into actions and we have identified a range of actions during this seminar by sharing experiences. At Landsnet we have for example identified the importance of making sure that through our stakeholder groups we are engaging both men and women equally. It seems obvious, but the future energy system has to be shaped by both genders in order to serve the society well. In order to succeed, the company also needs a gender balanced workforce, at all levels,” said Íris Baldursdóttir, EVP System Operations & ICT at Landsnet in Iceland.
Baldursdóttir is a board member of Women in Energy Iceland, with close to 300 members who want to actively influence the change that needs to take place. Together we have identified the need to strengthen women networks, highlight role models, attract more girls to energy related studies and give practical advice to energy companies.
See links to presentations from the seminar below, or in the “Downloads & Media” module.
Presentations from 2018 workshop - Copenhagen
Presentations from 2017 workshop - Stockholm