At GOGLA, we wanted to take the opportunity offered by today’s International Women’s Day to celebrate some of the inspiring women leaders enabling more inclusive, clean, energy access.
They have different backgrounds, and their companies are at different stages in different countries, but they all share a passion for empowering other women, while helping them improve their livelihoods and support their communities.
Image: Powerlive Zimbabwe
Women CEOs and Founders, still a minority
They are still trailblazers and role models, because as Katherine Lucey, Founder and CEO at Solar Sister, says: ‘I recognize that there is a profound responsibility of serving as a role model and example, because the real change comes not when we have the ‘first’ women CEO, but when it is unremarkable to have a woman CEO because at least half our companies are led by women.’
Being an entrepreneur is always challenging and finding funding can be one of the main hurdles, as Marianne Walpert, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Simusolar, tells us: ‘Women founders are not getting the same access to finance as men. I would ask investors to look at their portfolio and answer the question: how many women-led companies are they funding?‘
Image: Green Scene Energy PLC
Empowering women in the workforce can help build stronger businesses
Sharon Yeti, Co-Founder and CEO of Powerlive Zimbabwe, ties women’s strong presence in their workforce (89% of their solar agents) with positive business results and shares some of her learnings: ‘As they get encouragement, they gain more confidence and they perform much better. We are also proud to have been recognized as Startup Project of the Year in 2021 by the Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP Africa) for our gender lens approach to energy access and our success in a difficult market.’
At Solar Sister, their main goal is women empowerment, and they achieve it through their women entrepreneur program: ‘Women are the managers of household energy. That is why the network of women entrepreneurs is so effective in reaching the last mile customer. Because women entrepreneurs really ‘see’ the customer, they can speak to her and understand her needs. This woman-to-woman connection builds the bridge of trust that allows women to take the risk of trying new technology. Women talk to women, they see the benefits the products bring to their families, they see the entrepreneurs making a living and they get inspired.‘
Image: Solar Sister
Women, good customers of off-grid solar products
Sharon points out ‘the end-users of our products are mainly women but the head of the household is mostly the man. He is the person who has the money so he makes the decision, but there is a great influence by women in that decision.‘
Rekik Bekele, CEO and Founder of Green Scene Energy PLC, highlights the importance of women as customers, going beyond a gender justice perspective: ‘Women’s repayment rate is better and they benefit the most from the product because they spend more time in the house. Women also observe more directly how their children benefit from solar power.‘
Our homework as a sector
It has been inspiring to get to know more about these leaders, what their organizations are doing, and how they are making a difference. We celebrate them – and other off-grid companies taking a proactive approach to enabling women’s potential – while acknowledging we still have a lot more to do as a sector. They gave us some tips: increased knowledge-sharing, making women’s contributions more visible and undertaking additional research into female customers and last-mile communities.
We look forward to working with them, our wider Membership, and with our Partners to explore these and other efforts to unlock greater impacts for women both in, and via, the off-grid solar industry.
Read the full interviews with:
Additional resources and initiatives for enhancing women in off-grid solar:
- CDC – Off-Grid Solar Gender Toolkit: for gender smart investment
- ESMAP – Gender and Energy Online Toolkit for Practitioners: providing basic tools to energy teams for mainstreaming gender considerations into energy sector activities
- Power Africa – Women in African Power Network: supporting the participation and advancement of women in Africa’s energy sector
- SEforALL – People Centered Accelerator: a voluntary partnership of more than 45 organizations devoted to gender equality, social inclusion and women’s empowerment
- Women In Renewable Energy in Africa (W-REA): a professional network for women working in SSA’s renewable energy sector
- Value For Women: a specialized advisory firm that helps organizations advance gender inclusion
- Energia: an international network dedicated to achieve gender-equal and equitable access to and control over sustainable energy services as an essential right to development