Globally, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 is not in education, employment, or training, compared to 1 in 10 boys according to the United Nations. This stark reality calls for a profound shift in our approach, especially in low and middle-income countries.
In a world where energy is the lifeblood of progress, the demand for skilled workers in the energy sector is soaring. With the rapid pace of the energy transition, it is crystal clear that women will be at the forefront, leading the way toward a sustainable future.
Yet, let’s confront a disheartening truth. The representation of women in the renewable energy workforce, particularly in skilled positions like management and technical roles, remains disappointingly low. This gender gap represents not only a missed opportunity but also a silent suppression of immense talent that could drive innovation and redefine the boundaries of possibility.
To bridge this gap, it is imperative to establish platforms for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) that empower young women, equipping them with the skills needed to thrive in the energy sector. At Schneider Electric and its Foundation, as part of our ambitious goal to train 1 million people by 2025, we have prioritized the skilling and empowerment of girls and women. This mission is carried out in collaboration with over 400 local partners, including Associação Feminina de Estudos Sociais e Universitários – Afesu in Brazil, Shishu Mandir in India, Muslim Hands in Pakistan, French South African Schneider Electric Education Centre – F’SASEC in South Africa, and ElectroMisr in Egypt. Together, we have wholeheartedly embraced the challenge of promoting gender equality in the energy sector. Since 2009, our Youth Education and Entrepreneurship program, spanning more than 45 countries, have given rise to remarkable stories of girls who have emerged from the shadows, becoming leaders and trailblazers in the energy field.
Embarking on our journey towards empowering girls in the field of electricity and energy, we encounter stories that resonate deeply with the need for change. These stories are the heartbeats of a revolution, demonstrating that access to education can challenge the status quo and defy limitations.
Meet Anna Julia, a 17-year-old trailblazer from Brazil, echoes the sentiments of many young women breaking barriers in the energy sector. She states, “From the beginning, I was taught that the field of electrical power was complex and predominantly male-oriented, never considered a field for women. However, the program has encouraged me to see that a woman’s place is where she wants to be.” Anna Julia’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and empowerment initiatives.
Now, let’s travel to Egypt, where Shahd, also a 17-year-old from Egypt, reflects on her own experiences, saying, “I wish my professors and the society in middle school had pushed me to pursue my studies in the Electricity and Energy field. Instead, I was encouraged to follow the most common path for girls, like sewing, catering, and hospitality.” Shahd’s story highlights the critical role that early mentorship and guidance play in shaping young girls’ aspirations and choices.
On the other side of the world, Sneha, an 18-year-old from India, brings to light the resilience and determination that can emerge from adversity. As a mother of two and a survivor of domestic violence, Sneha’s aspiration is to become a successful female electrician, ensuring a better future for her children. Her advice resonates with unshakable conviction, especially after facing skepticism from her own family. She firmly states, “To girls, I say that nothing is impossible if we strive for our goal.”
Every dream deserves wings
These stories remind us that every girl, regardless of her circumstances, deserves the opportunity to explore her interests and talents freely. Empowering young women with education and support is not just about breaking stereotypes; it’s about creating pathways to independence, equality, and success. These remarkable young women are not just the voices of change but the architects of a brighter future in the energy sector and beyond. Through education and empowerment, they are proving that dreams, no matter how ambitious, are always within reach.
Schneider Electric’s Youth Education and Entrepreneurship program is not just about education and training; it is a beacon of empowerment, illuminating the path for girls and women. It is a resounding statement that gender equality is not just a goal but a driving force for progress.
In the realm of the energy transition, where innovation and sustainability reign supreme, these remarkable young women are not merely filling roles; they are re-forging new paths and rewriting the narrative towards leadership. They are the living embodiment of change, the role models that their communities desperately need, and a wellspring of inspiration for us all.
The compelling link between gender equality and climate change, as manifested through the realm of education, underscores the profound impact of educated women and girls who actively engage in decision-making processes. They emerge as a force for change, actively bolstering the resilience of their families and communities amid the challenges posed by economic disparities and the impact of climate change. They expedite the recovery process following climate-related disasters and play a pivotal role in adapting to the consequences of climate change. They represent an immense wellspring of untapped human potential.
Empowering women and girls, amplifying their voices, emerges as the pivotal factor that can determine the success or failure of our endeavors to achieve both gender equality and climate justice.
The inspiring story of Mehak, a young entrepreneur from Pakistan. She’s not just breaking barriers; she’s shattering them. At the age of 18, when many are just beginning to dream big, Mehak launched her own work-from-home venture. Her journey stands as a powerful testament to her ability to defy gender stereotypes and aim for the stars, even when her parents objected to her enrolling in a “boys’ course”. In her own words, “The program empowered me to break free from gender stereotypes. Today, I’m pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, inspiring other girls, and even leading a club that teaches young girls about engineering. Witnessing their inspiration is truly incredible.”
By equipping girls with knowledge and skills, we are not just closing the gender gap in the energy sector; we are unleashing an explosion of innovation, creativity, and progress. Diversity is not a zero-sum game; it’s a key driver of innovation and success. A more inclusive workforce enables companies to better drive forward the clean energy transition and ensure it benefits all communities. A research study by Boston Consulting Group reveals that companies with above-average diversity reported a 19% higher innovation-related advantage, translating into overall better financial performance*. These findings underscore that talent knows no gender, and with the right opportunities and support, young women can rise above and contribute significantly to building a more sustainable future. These stories serve as sparks of hope, illuminating the path to a brighter, more inclusive energy sector.
Halfway across the globe, meet the girl who defied society’s judgments and embraced her own willpower, even in the face of adversity, Akwandemacusi, a resilient 19-year-old from South Africa. Her motto: “Focus on what you are doing so that together we empower more women.” Her story reflects the enduring spirit of women who refuse to be held back, inspiring us to keep pushing boundaries and creating a world where every girl can aspire to greatness.
Through our Youth Education and Entrepreneurship program, we are not just witnessing the transformation of individuals; we are witnessing the transformation of entire communities. These remarkable women, armed with a solid foundation in electrical technical skills, are doing much more than providing valuable services; they are nurturing independence. They are not only creating brighter futures for themselves but also illuminating the path to a better world for everyone.
Their stories resonate with an undeniable strength, resilience, and an unwavering sense of duty to their communities. These are stories of empowerment that transcend boundaries and ignite a spirit of hope and boundless possibility. As we embark on a journey through the lives of girls and women from Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and beyond, we find they aren’t just embracing the energy transition; they are leading it with resolute determination and limitless potential.
Where conservative norms and traditions often chart one’s destiny, stands Shahd, an Egyptian girl who shines as a catalyst for empowerment. Alongside her mother, she has assumed the role of a promoter of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) within their community. Their home has become a haven for numerous girls’ parents, offering not only reassurance but also the motivation to pursue electrical education. With immense pride, Shahd’s mother declares, “Shahd is a living success story in our society.” Both mother and daughter have taken up the mantle as program ambassadors, dedicated to inspiring and encouraging all young girls in Egypt. And at just 18 years old, her journey culminated in her becoming one of Schneider Electric’s employees, a testament to her unwavering determination and boundless potential.
Mehak, the 18-year-old dynamo from Pakistan with aspirations extending far beyond personal success; she’s on a mission to uplift her entire community. Right in her own neighborhood, she’s lending a helping hand to those who couldn’t afford to fix electrical appliances. With the skills she acquired from the Youth Education and Entrepreneurship program, she has become a real-life hero, providing relief, and demonstrating how knowledge can be a potent tool for community service. As she aptly puts it, “It’s about using my knowledge to assist those in need.”
While investing in girls’ education is paramount, we must also revolutionize the education system itself. In this era of climate emergency, quality climate education that is also gender-responsive is as vital as teaching fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. Recognizing this imperative, Schneider Electric and its Foundation have proactively updated their education support to ensure that girls and women are equipped with the essential skills needed for future careers in a sustainable world. This transformation is essential for a just transition to a green economy, and brighter, more inclusive future.
Akwandemacusi, a remarkable girl hailing from the small township of Mbalenhle in South Africa. In a community plagued by unsafe wiring and rampant illegal electricity connections, Akwandemacusi stands as a true agent of change. Armed with knowledge about electrical safety, the 19-year-old has assumed the role of a community educator, tirelessly enlightening her neighbors about the dangers of electricity hazards and the severe consequences of illicit connections. In her own unique way, she is singlehandedly making her community safer one lesson at a time.
In a world where 129 million girls** face barriers to education and opportunities, all these stories reminded that change is both urgent and possible. They illustrate the transformational power of education, empowerment, and gender equality.
The energy sector’s future lies in the hands of these remarkable young women, like Anna Julia, Mehak, Sneha, Akwandemacusi, and Shahd, who have shattered gender stereotypes and are leading the way towards a more sustainable future. Their unwavering determination and boundless potential are lighting the path to progress, not just in their communities but worldwide.
The stories we have shared here are not just tales of personal triumph but calls to action:
Join us in our mission to break the barriers that limit girls’ potential. Support initiatives that promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for young women, not just in Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, but across the globe. Advocate for change in your communities, schools, and workplaces. Encourage mentorship, guide young girls toward fields traditionally deemed ‘unsuitable,’ and challenge stereotypes whenever you encounter them.
Invest in their education, empower them with skills, and be a part of transforming communities through gender equality. As we have seen, these remarkable individuals are not just closing the gender gap in the energy sector; they’re also lighting the way to a more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable future. Every girl deserves the chance to soar, and together, we can make that a reality.