On 28 November 2023 the CESET project team held an online discussion about promoting intersectional energy education in Africa. The meeting was organized to discuss and share experiences across Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia and to learn and design better training and education for energy engineers. The participants reached a consensus that there is a gender gap in the engineering education sector, particularly in Electrical and Mechanical engineering, which are important routes for entering the energy sector. This gap is consistent across Ethiopia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Insufficient representation of female engineers at the bachelor level impedes the ability to specialize in energy engineering. This is leading to have a male dominated energy sector both at the education and labour market. The key barriers for the lack of engineers in the sector are related to:
- Sociocultural norms and stereotypes: Traditional gender roles and societal expectations often discourage girls from pursuing careers in engineering or technical fields. There are a prevailing belief that such fields are more suitable for men, leading to limited opportunities and support for girls interested in energy engineering.
- Gender-based discrimination and bias: Discrimination and bias against women including more responsibility in the house activities discourages female students from pursuing energy engineering. This include unequal treatment among children in the house works and limited support for girls to pursue engineering subjects.
- Lack of awareness and information: Many girls may not be aware of the opportunities available in energy engineering or the potential for a rewarding career in this field. Insufficient information and career guidance from the grassroots at primary and secondary schools is contributing to the underrepresentation of women in energy engineering education.
- Limited role models and mentorship: The absence of female role models and mentors in the energy engineering field can discourage girls from considering it as a viable career option. Having successful women in these roles can inspire and provide guidance to aspiring female engineers.
The participants agreed that addressing gender gap challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including promoting gender equality and challenging societal norms, improving access to quality education in rural areas, providing mentorship and role models, combating discrimination and bias, and raising awareness about the benefits and opportunities in energy engineering for girls and women. List of recommended approaches to minimize the gender gap include but are not limited to:
- Introducing and practicing affirmative action during admission, hiring, and training practices
- Incorporating energy-systems thinking in the curriculum: revision of curriculums to enable gender inclusion
- Inclusion of Gender as an independent module in the higher education and in tailored trainings
- Grassroots: motivate future female engineers to access courses starting from the primary and secondary schools
- Inclusion of Entrepreneurship modules in any future trainings.