Gender-disaggregated data are very difficult to come by in the energy sector. Yet, the limited data available suggest that gender aspects are indeed relevant and should be taken into account when conceptualising and conducting an energy transition.
In the energy sector, too, gender identities and gender roles influence patterns of consumption and can result in differing attitudes, preferences and approaches to risk-taking. Women, for example, have a comparatively high awareness of risk, which is reflected in their stronger rejection of risky technologies such as nuclear power. Moreover, they are less likely to rely on technical solutions to environmental problems and are subsequently more willing to make changes to environmentally unfriendly behaviours and life-styles. Women also place greater emphasis on the responsibility and influence of individuals and accordingly, more women than men support the notion of an energy transition and are more committed to its implementation. In addition to differing attitudes, communication and access to information also play a key role. For example, women tend to prefer direct communication, such as information provided by friends or colleagues, whereas men are more likely to consult written sources of information. How we evaluate our own knowledge is also shaped heavily by persistent, deeply rooted gender differences. While 33% of men feel very well informed about the energy transition, only 23% of women would be prepared to say the same thing. Surveys across the energy sector reveal strikingly similar results, with a high percentage of women answering “I don’t know”. Of course, this does not necessarily reflect the genuine knowledge of the subject matter, but rather how the individual assesses what they know or think they might know. This aspect is also closely linked to the political dimensions.
Energy usage is related to income and ownership of property – the higher the income, the higher the energy usage – but it is also linked to the question of who can afford newer, more efficient energy technologies. Poorer members of the population, including a disproportionate number of women (especially single mothers and older women), are more likely to live in poor quality rental apartments and are thus unable to influence whether a building is energy efficient (if heat insulation is utilised, for example). At the same time, poorer groups have fewer opportunities to benefit from renewable energy installations through financial involvement. This is likely to be exacerbated by the current policies in place for citizen-owned energy programmes, which involves the auctioning of land usage to the cheapest provider.
The gendered division of labour continues to be reflected in job choices and the reality that women continue to take the bulk of the responsibility for care work, yet it also has an impact on other matters, such as the amount of energy used and what it is used for. More often than not, male members of the household are still responsible for technical energy matters (such as decisions about heating and warm water supply, as well as repairs), while energy savings linked to behavioural change lie within the responsibility of female members of the household. It is safe to say that this division is not viewed neutrally within society. Indeed, sociocultural norms and behavioural patterns play a role within in the household, but they are also taken into account by product developers for marketing purposes, or perhaps more subtly, in the information produced about efficient energy use.
The energy industry – both public and private – is one of the last remaining truly male domains. The higher up in the hierarchy of a company, the smaller the share of women. This is largely due to the fact that jobs in this field are often accessed through technical training courses, in which women are still underrepresented. The various trades relevant for the energy sector, such as building, electrical, gas and water installation, are also male dominated. This lack of representation means that women have fewer opportunities to contribute to the planning, conceptualisation and political dynamics within this extremely powerful economic sector, and their attitudes, preferences and solutions continue to be marginalised.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that certain biological factors can also be relevant for the energy sector. This mainly applies to the higher room temperatures required for women to feel comfortable, caused by differences in the circulation system and women’s lower proportion of muscle, as well as potentially by hormones.
- Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cookstoves in South Asia
In May 2015 the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves released a study in collaboration with Practical Action on the gender and livelihood impacts of clean cooking solutions in households in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The study, titled "Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cookstoves in South Asia" concludes that women who use cleaner, more efficient cookstoves – such as improved biomass stoves or those using kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – spend 70 hours fewer per year collecting fuelwood and use less fuel than those using traditional stoves. It is revealed that women spend approximately 374 hours every year collecting firewood in India, and other findings suggest that female-headed households are more likely to adopt cleaner cooking solutions than male-headed households, and women who are part of social groups are more likely to own an improved cookstove. The study also finds that women spend four hours a day cooking with traditional stoves but can save one hour and 10 minutes when using a clean cookstove and children from households with clean cookstoves spend more time in school.
An executive summary of the study can be downloaded here.
- New research findings on gender-specific participation in the expansion of renewable energies
Over a period of two years, the University of Singen conducted research on the "Gendered effects of the German Energy Transformation in South Westphalia (GAES)". In "Gender matters: Women, renewable energy, and citizen participation in Germany" the head of the project, Dr. Cornelia Fraune, discusses the research findings. The study investigated how the larger social, cultural, and political context fosters and constrains citizens’ agency to take part in citizen participation schemes in renewable electricity production (RES) and thus, how women and men are involved differently in RES. According to the study, merely 20% of the investors in wind energy schemes and 30% of the investors in solar energy schemes are female. Furthermore, women are significantly under-represented in the management of these schemes. Yet with regard to the average investment of all shareholders of a renewable energy scheme, no difference between women and men could be observed.
More information on the project
The article "Gender matters: Women, renewable energy, and citizen participation" by Dr. Cornelia Fraune is available here
- ENERGIA - International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy
ENERGIA is an international network for Gender and renewable energy. It is active in Africa and Asia and collaborates with regional and national Gender as well as environmental networks.
On behalf of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and together with the Belgian organisation Milieu Ltd., in 2012 we conducted a study focusing on the implementation of Area K of the Beijing Platform for Action in the (at that time) 27 member states of the European Union. Areas examined included the state of research on gender and energy in the EU member states, gender aspects in energy consumption and production, and the participation of men and women in energy-related policymaking and planning. You can download a short and a longer version of the study in English.
The short version is also available in French, German and Danish.
- The energy consumption of men and women - a European comparison
Numerous studies have attempted to estimate total household energy use over the past decades, and differences have mainly been explained by levels of income/expenditure. Yet, studies of consumption patterns which address gender reveal that men eat more meat than women and drive longer distances, potentially leading to higher total energy use by men. In this study the total energy use for male and female consumption patterns was calculated in four European countries (Germany, Norway, Greece and Sweden) by studying single-person households. Significant differences in total energy use were found in two countries, Greece and Sweden. The largest differences found between men and women were for travel and eating out, alcohol and tobacco, where men were revealed to use much more energy than women. We suggest that these findings are relevant for the EU’s policies, given that the EU aims to mainstream gender issues into all activities and lower its total energy use. Rät R. and Carlsson-Kanyama A. 2010: Energy consumption by gender in some European countries.
- Renewables2004: Gender Equity and Renewable Energies
The outcomes of the International Conference for Renewable Energies in 2004, the "Renewables2004" in Bonn continue to provide an important basis for discussions on gender and energy. You can find several documents prepared by genanet for the conference in our Infopool. One of them is the Thematic Background Paper Nr. 12 which we published together with ENERGIA.
- Gender and Energy in the North
The Background Paper "Gender and Energy in the North" was conducted by Ulrike Röhr/genanet for an international workshop in the run-up to the CSD-9 (9th session of the UN Commission on sustainable development) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannisburg in 2002. You can download the English version here.