Despite the substantial, positive contribution to growth and innovation made by women, disparities still exist in access to education and economic opportunities that limit women from achieving their full sociopolitical power. Although women make up more than 50% of global population, and average 40% of the world’s labor force, women continue to lag in promotional opportunities, wages, and land ownership, and are inhibited in their pursuit of education and employment by lack of access to social and natural resources.
Women also play a key role in radically alleviating environmental and social crises. For instance, we know that girls’ education works to mitigate global warming, so much so that school for girls is considered cost-competitive when compared against all other carbon emission-reducing solutions. We also know that access to labor and economic opportunities—which are enabled by clean energy—empowers women to take leadership in their communities. The result is an undeniable interplay between women’s rights, energy generation and its impacts on our world, and economic opportunity.
Lifted up through education
The favorable results for educated girls and their communities are significant. Educated girls have fewer children, which helps to curb unsustainable acceleration in population growth. They receive higher wages and demonstrate greater upward mobility, which builds a foundation for strong economies in developing nations. They, their children, and their communities have better health outcomes than uneducated girls and demonstrate greater long-term resiliency.
Positive impact on the planet
In many communities, women occupy positions that give them the opportunity to be leaders in creating positive change for the planet. Frequently, they are the resource managers for their communities, accountable for raising crops and livestock, for carrying water, and for responding to natural disasters.
Consider, for example, that women make up almost half of the agricultural labor force and produce 60-80% of all food crops in developing countries. Empowering and educating women to be effective landowners and farmers can improve crop yields beyond current levels. This can reduce the carbon emissions that result from clear cutting forests for arable land. Female smallholders can also actively manage soils and vegetation, leading to additional carbon drawdown.
Educating girls has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide by 59.6 gigatons – Project Drawdown
Opportunity through innovation
Women are also key beneficiaries of clean technologies. Advancements in solar power and other new energy opportunities accelerate women’s education, employment, and entrepreneurship, allowing them to rise out of poverty, impact the health of their families, and lead in their communities.
Today, millions of women and girls still rely on inefficient cook stoves to prepare meals. These stoves contribute between 2-5% of total annual global emissions, disproportionately impact female health, and consume many hours a day to maintain. This is time that could be used towards more beneficial activities such as employment or education. By replacing these stoves with higher efficiency, cleaner burning, or even solar powered models, health and economic outcomes for women are improved.
Solar power plays an important role in other ways. In India, small scale mini-grids are being rapidly deployed, in part because solar results in a cheaper, more stable power supply. These smaller, easy-to-implement solar projects are electrifying rural areas of a country where more than 200 million people still lack access to power. Electrification is stimulating new economic opportunities, which means that it is easier for women and girls to find steady and well-paying work, enabling further positive outcomes for these women and their families, including better access to food, healthcare, and transportation.
Solar powered LED lights—like the Schneider Electric Mobiya—can also significantly improve quality of life for women and girls, who can use the lights to do homework and continue productive activities that benefit their families and communities beyond sundown. The lights are also more affordable than candles normally purchased for family lighting needs and produce zero emissions.
Our commitment to equality
At Schneider Electric, we are committed to the advancement and equality of women because access to energy, education, and opportunity are fundamental human rights. Our efforts have earned us a position on the inaugural Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, one of 104 global companies to do so.
Our approach to gender equality touches all areas of our operation: talent management, salary and leave practices, and our global supply chain. To date, 40,000 Schneider Electric employees have joined the HeForShe movement.
We also train women in electricity and energy management, enabling women all over the world to break through barriers and achieve their professional goals. Together with the Schneider Electric Foundation, our women’s entrepreneurship program in Brazil helps women begin their own energy business. In Egypt, we have fostered the integration of women into our operations through a successful Female Technician Hiring Program.
The right kind of growth
The global challenges and opportunities that we all face demand innovation and remedy. Women and girls are essential to global economic and energy solutions, which is why Schneider Electric joins with many other organizations to make the vision of gender equality a reality. This International Women’s Day, we encourage everyone to be gender inclusive and #PressforProgress.