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Ask Watt: Closing the inclusivity gap in the energy access workspace

The energy access sector has grown rapidly however, during these years of growth, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the sector are yet to be addressed systematically and holistically. We ( the sector)  have established that energy access benefits from being more aligned with its customer base and those most impacted by energy poverty; profits rise and organisations become more sustainable. Further inclusive labor participation has been directly linked with reduction in extreme poverty, for example, the income generated from women’s labor participation explained 30 percent of the reduction of extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean (World Bank 2012). But there are imbalances both in the workforce and in those benefiting from improved energy access. For example, the 2019 powering jobs census showed that women only make up a quarter of the direct formal workforce and globally women only represent 32 percent of the renewable energy workforce (IRENA,2019). Further, most households lacking electricity services live in poverty. For every 100 boys living in extremely poor households there are 105 girls (UNSD 2015). The remaining gender and access gaps with their lack of data to illuminate its various dimensions are highlighted in the Energy progress Report- Tracking SDG7- 2021

Alongside the current research that acknowledges gaps, JEDI improvement initiatives undertaken to date tend to focus on singular aspects of diversity (not considering intersections) and/or remain inaccessible to most. This inaccessibility is due to a large range of barriers like  cost , privilege, career stage, country, company ethos and general awareness resulting in an inclusivity gap; leaving members of the sector’s workforce feeling isolated, unsafe, exhausted and preferring to exit the sector to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

To build a sustainable sector we need to address this inclusivity gap. This requires a breadth of stakeholders to come together, listen to each other - especially those most impacted, and create new activities that can plug the gaps in existing initiatives. Based on initial discussions and understanding of those that we need to reach and the barriers they face, these new activities need to be designed to focus on accessibility of resources, establishing sector wide behavioural norms and language and holding ourselves, and each other, accountable for change towards inclusive workspaces. To understand better and listen deeper we are kicking off with a survey, please give us five minutes of your time to share your thoughts on energy access workspaces and share this survey with your friends, colleagues, peers, acquaintances who work in the sector; the more input we get the better we can understand and therefore address the gap.

To start closing the inclusivity gap we are launching Ask Watt, a safe space to anonymously ask questions anyone might have about work life.  We aim for Ask Watt to be a place that enables all in the sector to find support and an understanding that there are others who are facing the same challenges, no one is alone. We hope this emboldens more of us to seek support but also drive changes both big and small in our organisations through starting to establish sector norms. We are supported by Convergent Consulting to ensure a focus on inclusivity and employee wellbeing as we answer each question.

This is a start, but we want and need to do more. We want to create safe work spaces for everyone. We know that we need to work together to create better inclusivity in energy access, across organisations, institutions and all stakeholders within the ecosystem. If you are interested in talking to us on this and other initiatives, we would love to hear from you. Let’s discuss how we can work together and how we can support your initiatives or share your experiences, please reach out to us at safeenergyspaces@remove-this.gmail.com. We can't wait to hear your ideas, questions and any programmes or initiatives you are working on.