Middle East group pushes for more women in renewable energy

The solar power field has been dominated by men, but a professional organisation is encouraging more women to follow the career path.

The Middle East Solar Power Association has formed the Women in Solar initiative to encourage greater female participation in solar energy. Silvia Razgova / The National
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abu dhabi // Women are being urged to consider a career in the male-dominated solar energy business.

The Middle East Solar Power Association has formed the Women in Solar initiative to encourage greater female participation.

The group has launched a mentoring programme and are organising events that feature women who have climbed the solar-power career ladder.

Encouraging more women to join the ranks would benefit the industry, said Michelle Davies, the head of clean energy and sustainability at a global corporate law firm, Eversheds, and a member of the Women in Solar advisory board.

“The industry will gain by having access to a wider group of talented people,” she said.

Besides increasing the pool of skilled people competing for jobs, encouraging more women to enter the field will help foster diversified perspectives, said Dalya Al Muthanna, a member of the advisory board and a director at GE Power & Water.

“This is always an advantage, in any industry,” said Ms Al Muthanna, who handles market development in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. “Diversity has always been a tool to foster innovation, to challenge ideas.”

Both women agreed that the industry was male-dominated. At GE, for example, there are 260 men in engineering and technology positions but only 48 women.

“This is something we see not only in renewables but also across the engineering sector,” Ms Al Muthanna said.

Ms Davies said the ratio was starting to even out in some parts of the world “but in the Middle East it is something that needs to be worked on”.

“It probably goes quite far back to the approach in schooling,” she said, where men are often encouraged to follow engineering and science paths, while women are steered towards the humanities.

As more governments in the region are considering clean energy, the clean and sustainable energy field will offer good career paths, Ms Davies said.

“For men and women now is a fantastic time to be getting involved in renewables,” she said.

“We are now beginning to see a commitment in the UAE to a proper and sustainable renewable energy programme.”

Countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia are also showing potential.

“Clearly the biggest market is Saudi Arabia but its policy is really in the process of being determined,” Ms Davies said. “Many of our clients see Saudi Arabia as the most attractive market for renewables in the world.

“The region offers huge opportunities but the policy has to be clarified.”