Women Can Influence Sector Innovation
According to Ernst & Young’s Women in Power and Utilities Index, only five per cent of board executives and 16 per cent of board members of the top 200 utilities globally are women. Meanwhile, the Climate Investment Fund says projects have a bigger chance at success if women are involved in decision-making.
Thandi Hillie, chief executive officer of Sbhekuza Women Investments and independent non-executive director for Egoli Gas, Reatile Gaz, and a non-executive director of Capability Enablers and Gestalt Fund Managers, agrees. Hillie says that by virtue of being in the majority, women more easily identify with society’s needs and are able to direct companies appropriately in terms of how they position themselves and remain relevant. “Therefore, it’s women who are best placed to ensure that companies get maximum value from women employees in a manner that leaves women feeling valuable and equal to men,” she explains.
She also points out the obvious fact that because the majority of the population is female, it is fair that women are fairly represented at board level.
Mercia Grimbeek, the compliance manager at Mainstream Asset Management South Africa and the current South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) board chair, chair of the MAMSA Social and Ethics Committee and a member of the Mainstream Global Ethics and Compliance Committee, says the benefits of having women in the boardroom include gaining a different perspective and innovative thinking. “It allows us to ask multi-pronged, challenging questions, which lead to more optimal solutions,” she says.
Grimbeek has worked in the renewable energy industry since 2010 and has also consulted to various IPPs on socioeconomic and economic development projects. She says that women’s strength is their holistic view and their emotional intelligence, which support financial decisions — balancing both the bottom line and the impact on communities.
Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CSIR research group leader: Energy Industry, says that once at the table, navigating the boardroom requires the technical grasp of the terrain, which has to be complemented with preparedness and diligence. She says that “you have to be prepared to make unpopular decisions, or interrogate ideas to make a valuable contribution, which takes bravery”.
Looking ahead, the prospects for women entering the energy space look encouraging. Grimbeek points to the bursary allocation to women as well as opportunities to engage with international organisations, highlighting the Global Wind Energy Council’s Global Leadership programme, which she is enrolled in, with its access to networks, global developments in the industry and the opportunity to contribute on a global level.
“We need to support and mentor aspiring young women, so that we can tap into this promising generation of talented minds in the energy sector,” Grimbeek says.