The Women in Power Sector Professional Network in South Asia (WePOWER) aims to support participation of women in energy projects and institutions, as well as promote more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

The first Regional Conference of WePOWER opened today with 150 attendees, including representatives of energy sector utilities and public agencies involved in projects, technical universities, women engineers, and students. The 2-day event is co-hosted by the World Bank Group and ADB.

Managed by an all-woman team, the Narangi Substation in India serves eastern Guwahati's households, school, hospitals, and industry. ADB found that women’s skills and perspectives account for a small part of job and decision-making by energy sector agencies in South Asia, with gender diversity in technical and senior managerial positions also lacking. (Source: ADB)
“WePOWER is closely aligned with ADB’s broader long-term commitment embodied in its long-term Strategy 2030 to remove constraints that women face in finding more and better jobs,” said ADB Principal Social Development Specialist Mr. Francesco Tornieri. “Although this applies to all sectors, we see the energy sector as one of the most challenging.”

Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s development. An ADB series of Gender Equality Diagnostic studies on the energy industry in South Asian countries has found that women’s skills and perspectives account for a small part of job and decision-making by energy sector agencies. Gender diversity in technical and senior managerial positions is also visibly lacking.

Moreover, an assessment conducted by the World Bank in 8 South Asian countries found very low female enrollment rates in engineering programs (ranging from 0.5% to 31%), low female staff representation in utilities (2% to 17%), and an even lower percentage of women in technical roles in utilities (0.5% to 6%). The studies identified the need for role models and family support, absence of basic facilities and transport, and presence of various forms of discrimination and harassment.

WePOWER is envisaged to become a vibrant and self-sustaining professional network backed by strategic partners that can provide technical and financial support. Its work program will focus on five strategic areas—education, recruitment, development, retention, and policy and analysis. WePOWER will provide capacity building support, networking, and mentorship for women engineers for career advancement, research to reform policies and practices, exposure to technology, recruiting opportunities, and access to information and conferences.

The World Bank Group has agreed to host the WePOWER Secretariat for an initial four years. A second Steering Committee meeting is planned to be held at ADB headquarters in November./.

Khac Kien