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Why Women Need to Lead the Energy Sector to Power Our Future

Source | LinkedIn : By Leslie Labruto

We’re now approaching six months since the UN brought world leaders together in Paris for COP21, a landmark conference on climate change. COP21 produced some important results, including global solidarity around the issue of global warming and the adoption of the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. But the convention also led to additional questions. One of the most urgent among them: “What’s next?”

Taking action is the priority six months later, now that the Paris Agreement has been signed by over 174 nations. Action means investing in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal that are more sustainable and more cost-efficient than ever. It means supporting restoration efforts that reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And it means making gender inclusion a top priority—especially in the energy sector, where women lag in leadership positions and are too often denied opportunities to contribute solutions that can benefit us all.

The issue of gender inclusion in the energy space is personal for me, a civil engineer whose career path was inspired by one of the most important women in my life. When my 99-year-old grandmother was just 14, she moved to New York City to find work and help support her family. Nanny, as she has now come to be called by all, got a job as a tungsten coiler for light bulbs at a large company, and she was able to make enough money to send some back home to her family in rural Pennsylvania. That was the beginning of what would end up being a 53-year career at that same company.

Over the course of her career, my grandmother worked her way up from tungsten coiler to line manager, becoming one of the first female leaders at the company. That was more than thirty years ago. Unfortunately, Nanny’s story is still unique. In the energy sector, as with many others, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions.

A recent Ernst & Young survey found that women made up only 5 percent of board executives across the global power and utilities sector in 2015. And only 13 percent of utility senior management teams had female representation. This, despite the fact that the top 20 most diverse utilities significantly outperformed the lower 20 on a return on investment basis.

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