Women can catalyze clean energy technology markets by engaging in income generating opportunities along the value chain, particularly in marketing, distribution, sales and after sales servicing of these technologies. Women as the traditional household managers of energy, have an understanding of what other women want and need. Women can play a unique role in these value chains as they leverage their existing networks to promote the adoption of these new technologies, as well as their roles as trusted sources of information to other users with regard to product recommendations.
However, there are various barriers that women face in becoming entrepreneurs in energy industries in developing countries. Corporate Citizenship estimates that there are approximately 860 million women worldwide who are deemed “not prepared” and/ or “not enabled” to take part in the world economy. This number is expected to rise to 1 billion in the next decade, The challenges women face come from both the extrinsic socio-cultural environment as well as their intrinsic psycho-social condition. Both extrinsic and intrinsic obstacles need to be addressed in order to successfully integrate women entrepreneurs in the energy sector.
Extrinsic factors that pose challenges include:
- Lack of women’s access to education. Women are underrepresented in higher education programs in science, technology and engineering and importantly, the greatest proportion of those who are illiterate, are women.
- Women have a lack of proper skills and experience to understand the business environment that they operate in.
- Women have a greater range of tasks and responsibilities as compared with men. These roles, particularly in domestic chores, mean less time to explore new technologies and the heavy burden of unpaid household responsibilities leads to ‘time poverty’, which could otherwise be dedicated to personal interests, paid labor or educational endeavors.
- Women are often constrained by social norms; as well as family commitment/responsibility.
- While women entrepreneurs face similar adverse situations as their male counterparts including lack of capital, insufficient experience, lack of raw materials and marketing opportunities, women businesses are often smaller, slower growing, and less profitable than male businesses. One of the largest barriers to expansion for women-owned businesses is lack of access to finance.
There are various reports and studies addressing how programs can help women in the BoP overcome the multiple extrinsic barriers to becoming and being effective entrepreneurs, as well as policy recommendations to create more enabling environments. For example, the United Nations Foundation and Exxon Mobil’s “A Roadmap to Women’s Economic Empowerment” delves into how programs and individuals can overcome traditional barriers women face in order for women to empower their selves economically. Despite considerable attention paid towards extrinsic barriers that women entrepreneurs face and interventions to address those, there remains a large gap on the knowledge and research of intrinsic barriers that women face in becoming entrepreneurs.
More attention needs to be paid to addressing intrinsic factors. There are multiple intrinsic factors, such as self-efficacy, agency, motivation, and drive that contribute substantially to women’s capacity to succeed. Amatucci and Crawley (2010) found that confidence and self-efficacy in financial management directly influenced success among women entrepreneurs and call for additional research to understand women intrinsic barriers to success. In a study taken in Iran, Chegini (2010) found that there is a meaningful and positive relationship between psychosocial factors of empowerment (including self-efficiency, motivation, personal consequence, feeling of being meaningful and trust in others) and entrepreneurship.
Agency-based trainings focus upon behavioral change by supporting self-awareness, internal motivation, and the abilities to formulate and execute strategic choices. Agency-based training remains critical as increased agency can lead women to be more inclined and able to participate fully in trainings that enhance their knowledge and capacity. Identifying ways to build human agency that engender hope, self-efficacy, and positive behavioral change is requisite to women’s empowerment. Leadership training supports the abilities to develop and execute strategic choices. Leadership training can include modules on topics such as creating goals to achieve identified outcomes, developing plans of action, speaking publicly, and other essential skills. While agency-based training is critical in building internal empowerment, leadership training and practice is important in helping women execute their gained agency.
Do people agree with this? If so, should there be initiatives focused on training women entrepreneurs in agency-based empowerment and leadership? If not, what are other opportunities (or success stories) in engaging women appropriately and effectively in clean energy initiatives?