Beyond Technology: Empowering Leaders through the Women in Power System Transformation Initiative

By Ariel Schindler

Women make up half of the world’s workforce potential, but are often underrepresented in the power sector, especially in technical and leadership roles. To expand opportunities for women in the sector, the USAID-National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Partnership, and the broader Global Power System Transformation (G-PST) Consortium joined together to launch the Women in Power System Transformation (PST) initiative. Recognizing that women leaders and decision-makers are essential to achieving successful, inclusive, and equitable clean energy transitions, this initiative aims to empower women in the energy sector, promote gender equity, and accelerate the transition to clean energy by providing training, mentorship, and support to women professionals in the energy field globally. 

The development of the Women in PST initiative is a significant step towards advancing climate efforts and gender equality around the world. Women in PST is bringing together leading institutions focused on gender diversity and equality in the energy and other sectors to support students, researchers, and power sector practitioners at the intersection of four critical objectives:

  1. Developing knowledge and skills on cutting-edge power systems topics.
  2. Inspiring and empowering women to lead transformational change.
  3. Building professional support and mentoring networks.
  4. Addressing institutional barriers to gender equality.
Developing Knowledge and Skills on Cutting-edge Power Systems Topics

Women in PST is collaborating with leading global experts to develop in-depth course work that increases access to power sector education for women in technical topics related to variable renewable energy integration, power sector transformation, and advanced power system operations. Technical courses are accompanied by inspirational videos that explore stories of women’s journeys to leadership in power system operations and introductory resources on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

To further support this effort, the initiative also offers experiential learning opportunities through internships and fellowships at G-PST institutions. Student internship opportunities at NREL and other G-PST technical institutions, such as the Electric Power Research Institute, are focused on building advanced technical knowledge and skills through applied research and project work. Professional fellowship opportunities enable power sector practitioners to learn from and work directly with system operators peers through G-PST.

Inspiring and Empowering Women to Lead Transformational Change

Women in PST is working with well-established partners, including Johns Hopkins University’s Self-Empowerment and Equity for Change Initiative (SEE Change) program to address the broader challenges women face in the workplace related to empowerment, negotiation, and leadership. There are many systemic barriers to women’s advancement in technical careers that are not technical in nature. The SEE Change Initiative and Women in PST initiative are working together to support women power system operators and students in building positive mental habits, realizing their leadership potential, and achieving their personal and professional goals through multi-week empowerment and personal agency trainings. By linking the Women in PST initiative with existing programs, participants can amplify their networks and access additional professional development resources.

Building Professional Support and Mentoring Networks

The energy sector has consistently been a male-dominated industry, which is why the Women in PST initiative leverages its partnerships to provide opportunities for women to develop skills, network, and lead in the sector. The Women in PST initiative aims to provide networking and upskilling opportunities within utilities and systems operations to advance leadership roles for women. Through this work, the initiative can begin addressing the sector's gender gap in leadership roles and contribute to more equitable and sustainable energy systems.  

Addressing Institutional Barriers

Women in PST is also collaborating with the USAID Engendering Industries program to support G-PST system operator partners in addressing  the ingrained institutional barriers to the representation, advancement, and retention of women in technical and leadership roles in power system operations.

The initiative sponsored staff from three G-PST’s partner system operators—Colombia’s XM, Indonesia’s PLN, and Grid India—to travel to Vienna, Austria to participate in the Workforce Gender Equality Accelerated Program. This one-week training is designed  for human resources and upper-level management professionals to identify gender equality gaps within their organizations, develop a business case that demonstrates how gender equality will benefit the organization’s bottom line, and strengthen leadership and change management skills and exercise more influence to create an equitable and diverse workplace. This unique training enables them to take targeted, tangible, and strategic action, grounded in assessment, to increase gender equality in their organization.

The Women in PST initiative contributes to global climate efforts by promoting the adoptionof clean energy technologies and practices. The transition to clean energy is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. However, the transition to clean energy is not just about technology. It also requires a shift in the way we think about energy systems and the role of women in the sector. When women are given equal opportunity to bring their unique skills and experiences to bear across key power sector institutions, there is a great opportunity to strengthen collective decision-making, accelerate innovation, and drive dynamic solutions to meet urgent global challenges. ​​Recognizing this critical role women can play in the energy sector is an important factor in empowering them to be active participants in the transition to clean energy.

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Clean or Renewable Energy, Grid Integration, Gender and Social Inclusion, Green Jobs

Ariel Schindler

Ariel Schindler is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist on USAID’s Advancing Capacity for the Environment (ACE) contract, supporting Climate in her main role as Climatelinks Community Manager. Ariel has a Master’s in Strategic Communications, with a focus on social impact and advocacy, from American University, and a BA in Environmental Science and Policy from Eckerd College.

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