Australia's energy sector needs more women

How do we solve Australia’s energy challenges with so few women involved? This sector needs diversity

The energy industry is one of the worst-performing industries in terms of female representation in Australia, and yet it also boasts itself as one of the highest paying sectors. 

The ABS Gender Indicators found that the energy industry workforce comprised of only 23.8 per cent women. This made it the third worst industry in gender representation, after mining’s 17 per cent and construction’s 12.7 per cent. The energy industry is also one of the country’s highest paying industries, with an average median weekly income of $1731, placing it the second after mining. 

These stats are dire by themselves, and worse when paired together. 

But they are stats that are also unsurprising.

There is a perception that to work in the energy industry you need to be an engineer, a tech guru or a scientist, fields that are already male-dominated. This is a misperception that might be holding gender balance back.

The energy industry is a wildly multi-disciplinary industry and there is room for all kinds of talent and ways of thinking.

While the STEM backgrounds play an incredibly important role in the industry, the energy sector also requires financial and legal thinkers to advise on the many multi-million dollar transactions required for large infrastructure projects. The delivery of the energy infrastructure projects that make up the electricity and gas sector also require fierce project managers with high emotional intelligence, organisational and communication skills. Social licence and community relations emerges as an increasingly critical feature in the energy industry, so we need all the social scientists and humanities nerds too. 

But more importantly, women, we need you in the energy industry. 

The energy industry is rapidly changing. Australia’s electricity industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century transformation characterised by the increasing penetration of clean energy generation. This means that a diversity of skills is more important than ever. Inherent within the clean energy transition is innovation, as the energy industry welcomes the next generation of new (read, clean) technologies. And innovation thrives best where there is diversity in thinking, problem-solving and communication. This diversity is encouraged by having a breadth of lived experiences and perspectives at the table, and this can be achieved through greater gender diversity. 

The energy industry’s rapid transformation is also characterised by the uptake of consumer-owned energy devices, such as household solar, EVs and virtual power plants. In fact, the growth in these types of distributed energy resources is forecasted to grow by five times by 2050. This makes the role of community engagement and education, for example around consumer energy efficiency and management, increasingly significant. The ability to connect and communicate with all kinds of people is increasingly important and can be better achieved by having all kinds of people – including women – on the frontline. 

Importantly, the clean energy transition also means that the types of companies and cultures that hire within the energy industry is also changing. Gone are the days when working within this sector meant working for coal and gas generators, driven only by the bottom line. Instead, the energy industry is undergoing a major shift delivered by companies with a broader set of progressive and sustainable objectives. This means that working in the energy industry and working towards net zero are no longer preclusive concepts. 

The energy industry is changing, the 2022 Energy Crisis is a clear example of that. And with the jobs in the energy industry forecasted to nearly double over the next few years in Australia, we need more women in the energy industry than ever before. 

The energy industry is more than just a STEM-driven industry, but it is still very much a boys club. And a high-paying boys club, at that. 

So, to all you diversely talented women out there, if you’ve ever thought of working in the energy industry, now is the time to turn that thought into action. Because the energy industry needs you. 

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