Leading this one-of-a-kind gathering were H.E. Sophie Gladima, Minister of Petroleum and Energies for the Republic of Senegal; Shiva McMahon, Executive Vice President of International Operations at Woodside Energy.
Khady D. Ndiaye, Vice President and Senegal Country Manager at Kosmos Energy and Dr. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of State of the Republic of Senegal and EITI National Committee President were also part of the exclusive women in energy discussion.
Despite immense recent progress towards equality, women still only represent 1% of CEOs in the energy field. As McMahon noted, “In our sector, only 52 women are promoted to the higher levels of leadership for every 100 men versus. That’s a shockingly low figure, rising to 86 in other fields. And yet, companies that have gender-diverse leadership teams are 48% more likely to outperform other companies which do not.”
As H.E. Sophie Gladima remarked, “Here, only 14% of women are holding positions of responsibility in the sector. It’s a sector that frightens people, that is dominated by men and so keeps women at a distance. The key to bridging this gender gap is in helping women understand that energy is in fact a cornucopia of opportunities, and to create more opportunities to help women come into these roles.”
There is hope for a female-led future of STEM revolutionizing this gendered industry, with women already driving the energy transition as 1/3 of the renewable energy workforce and today comprising 17% of power sector company boards versus a mere 2% five years prior. In the Minister’s words, “When young women become aware of the issue, they’re able to act to solve it. It’s women working with communities, building solar farms, trying to change the status quo and create a new future for energy. More and more in Senegal, we’re seeing young women who dare to create their own firms and businesses and that alone is cause for hope.”
The cornerstone of this change lies in local content – the upskilling and empowerment of people and communities on the ground as opposed to the import of foreign skilled workers for tasks. Dr. Coll-Seck commented that, “We must help women get into education and study sciences. Science is the same everywhere- short on women – and we need scientists in Africa to transform our work and economies… The presence of women in industry shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the norm. We’re already seeing so much solidarity amongst women in these industries and these initiatives are bring this marginalized group together to develop new means to breach the gender gap. More and more, women are taking on positions of responsibility and doing them better than ever.”
As observed by moderator Eric A. Williams, President & Principal Consultant and Royal Triangle Solutions, “Women in business bring skills that can shift workplace culture – they lead differently, ethically, respectfully, with compassion. They’re strong communicators and handle crisis situations well.”
Or as put by McMahon, “Adaptability is absolutely a hallmark of all the people here.” McMahon herself was born in Iran and educated in France, transitioning from finance to executive-level roles in the industry over the course of thirty years. H.E. Minister Gladima trained as a doctor and was previously Minister of Health; Dr. Coll-Seck is a hydrological engineer by profession, and Ndiaye started out as a banker for five years.
But as Ndiaye states, “Like all the biggest challenges in the energy industry, breaking the class wall to women participation in energy is complex, requiring collaboration from people of all backgrounds and trainings… We need to see women working as doctors, engineers, executives- all sorts of roles- across all stage of the supply chain: and we will.”
Immediately after the lunch, the day’s first Ministerial panel is to take place, convening top dignitaries and leading lights of West African policy to discuss matters of exploration, investment and public-private partnerships writing a future for African energy that develops Africa.