Renewable energy as a sector with a potential for women: how to promote gender equality in the industry? Interview with Katarzyna Suchcicka, General Director, OX2 Poland
What is the reason for the lack of promotion of women to top positions and why are they needed at all? How do you assess this in your sector?
The fact that women have been relatively late in joining public life and, by extension, business life. We have a lot to do. That is why I think it is so important to help women, to support them in their careers, to expose and persuade them to be active and… influential. The perception of male and female roles is very deeply rooted in society. Changing these views, along with the entire structures that reinforce them, is an extremely slow process. Not surprisingly, perception continue to affect women’s ability to participate fully and equally in many sectors of the economy. The problem is also partly in how we women perceive and judge ourselves.
I am professionally involved in renewable energy. It is an industry that will significantly affect our entire society. We all need energy to live and meet our basic needs and to be able to develop. I would like to see more women being active in this sector and having an impact on its development. We will be judged for our work today by our children and grandchildren. I like to think of my work this way and I find this approach very feminine.
At the beginning of 2020, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) analyzed the issue of gender equality, here in the wind energy sector, in its report. Based on a survey of employees, companies and institutions, it concluded that much remains to be done to increase women’s participation and to take full advantage of the full range of talents we, as humans, possess. It came as no surprise to me that gender inequality is most pronounced at decision-making levels.
The mentioned report suggests that women bring new perspectives, opportunities and possibilities to the workplace, improve collaboration, and that increasing the number of skilled and decision-making women also ensures that organizations perform better overall. Women’s leadership and women’s contribution will be the key to ensuring that the future energy systems meet the needs of modern societies, address the challenges of climate change and leave no one behind. Promoting gender equality and gender mainstreaming at all levels, should be a priority in both the public and private sector.
The report also touches on the fact that due to its multidisciplinary dimension; renewable energy is attractive to women, this is what the fossil fuel industry lacked. The study found that women make up 32% of the full-time workforce, a much higher than the average of 22% in global oil production and the gas industry.
Renewable energy is essential to ensure security of energy supply, to reduce the health effects of conventional energy consumption and to mitigate climate change. Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources also facilitates economic development and alleviates poverty. This pathway of opportunity will be most effective if it is socially inclusive.
Why are women twice as few as men choosing to found startups?
I was not strictly setting up a startup but opening a branch of a foreign company in Poland. Building a business from scratch is hugely absorbing and requires a huge commitment. Combining this with raising a child and household duties is a challenge and requires a great deal of determination, with no guarantee that it will succeed, but rather with a high probability that it will fail. I cited my example, of raising a child, but let’s remember that it is most often women who also take care of the elderly, or grandchildren.
Is there still a stereotypical, conservative gender division of roles?
Interesting conclusions can be drawn by analyzing the so-called ‘Gender Index’ created by the EIGE (European Institute of Gender Equality), a scientific unit attached to the European Union, which examines the level of gender equality in the member states. The index measures differences between women and men in six areas: work, salary, knowledge, time, power and health. The maximum value – indicating equality between women and men – is 100. The European Union’s score in 2022 was 68.6 points, Poland’s 57.7 points. Since 2010, we have dropped seven places in the ranking of countries due to slow progress. One area caught our eye – ‘power’ – where we ‘scored’ only 34.4 points out of a possible 100. This is quite unsurprising, gender equality in decision-making positions in the political, economic and social spheres is at a very low level, meaning that it is mainly men who make the decisions that affect our lives. The highest score, for all areas, was achieved by Sweden with 83.9 points and in the area of ‘power’ – 84.6 points.
In Poland, the gender dimension is highly important: women should participate in decisions-making on equal terms as men, if they want to be represented. In recent times, many decisions affecting women have been taken, without our participation. We have 28% women in the parliament, even less in the ministry, only 16% (data for the first quarter of 2022).
How do women create social capital in their careers, how do they use their networks? Do they care less about them than men?
A wide network helps in many areas of life and career development is easier, if you know the industry, have the right knowledge of how it works and how relationships are composed. This is a very important part of career development and in my organization, I support both women and men in this area.
Have you met a business mentor on your life’s path, someone who has helped you strike out?
I met a lot of inspiring people along the way, I learned from many how to act, from others what not to do – these were such anti examples, but in most cases, I was searching by the trial and error method, without support. And I think this last method taught me the most. My supervisors were mostly supportive and saw tangible benefits by involving me in difficult projects, often ones that no one else wanted to take. It also helped me a lot to take a broad view of certain issues and look outside ‘my own backyard’. I can’t say that the development of my career is very precisely planned, whereas I can say, that I know what my goal is.
Katarzyna Suchcicka – General Director Ox2
For 15 years associated with the energy sector and more specifically with renewable energy sources. A graduate of engineering studies abroad and economics in Poland. She has international experience in managing and building effective teams. Actively participates in the Polish energy transformation.
Last Updated on March 29, 2023 by Valeriia Honcharuk