Where does a girl dream about working as an engineer and running her country’s power facility? It certainly was not the first career choice for Queen Esther, a Nigerian schoolgirl who had always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.
But after spending a day at her father’s workplace, Nigeria’s main electricity utility, EkoElectricity Distribution Co., she became excited about new job possibilities. “Now I want to become an engineer because it’s really cool!” she said.
Cynthia Wanja, a Kenyan student, hadn’t thought of working in a power station either until she visited her father’s job at the Kenya Power and Lighting Co. and thought it was “awesome.” “I never knew there is work for civil engineers at power stations,” she said. “It sounds very interesting.”
And for Sarah, one of the 44 Jordanian girls visiting their parents’ company, the experience was empowering. “The future is in the girls’ hands and they will help build the country,” she said enthusiastically after touring the Electricity Distribution Co.
These three girls and dozens of others in Nigeria, Kenya, Jordan and Macedonia participated in Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events, the first of their kind at their respective countries’ power utility and, for many of the girls, the first visit to their parents’ workplace.
The events, supported by USAID’s Engendering Utilities program, expose girls to the many job options in the power sector.
Women worldwide have traditionally been underrepresented and often excluded from employment opportunities in the energy sector. Compared to eight other global industries, the energy sector ranks last for gender diversity of corporate boards. Only 16 percent of board members at the world’s 200 largest electric utilities are women.
In Jordan, for instance, women are still a minority in the workforce, and those employed commonly choose jobs in health and education, fields perceived as more appropriate for women. The USAID program aims to better understand the challenges that women working in the energy sector face, while improving their employment opportunities at power utilities.
As part of the program, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events were designed to enhance girls’ interest in the energy sector early on.
While Queen Esther and 35 other Nigerian girls learned about lighting and energy conservation and how energy is generated through hydropower and transmitted to light city streets, they were also encouraged to continue to study and think about their futures without gender limitations.
“Promoting gender equality is fundamental to our company,” engineer Oladele Amoda, the general manager and CEO of EkoElectricity, told the girls during their visit. “Already, women hold four out of our company’s six top management positions.” In Nigeria, where women are disadvantaged in most aspects of livelihood and well-being—including employment, income and health—the Nigerian electric utility provides a positive example for others to follow.
Having women join the energy sector is a win for everyone. Studies in other business sectors have shown that investing in girls and women has a positive impact on productivity and sustainable growth. And including women in a company’s management team can result in a richer set of ideas and more comprehensive solutions to challenges.
Energy companies are often among the largest employers in a country. Improving women’s access to jobs in electric power companies leads to improved development outcomes beyond the energy sector, including increased economic growth and better lives for families.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Dragotto is a senior energy specialist in USAID’s Office of Energy and Infrastructure and manages the Engendering Utilities program.
- Learn more about USAID’s Engendering Utilities program and Bring Your Daughter to Work Day at Macedonia’s largest electric utility.
- Learn about International Day of the Girl.
- Read about Power Africa’s gender and power activities.