Jessica Menon of Tetra Tech discusses promoting gender equality for women in the global energy workforce

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Posted 26 minutes ago

Proposed by Tetra Tech

Jessica Menon, Director of Gender Mainstreaming for Energy at Tetra Tech, has been advancing gender equality and social inclusion globally for over 15 years. Based in Lusaka, Zambia, she manages Tetra Tech’s USAID Engendering Utilities program, oversees a team of technical experts who also support USAID’s energy equality improvement for Southeast Asia (E4SEA ) and provides technical support to gender specialists through Tetra Tech international energy services projects. Jessica works with the leadership and management teams of more than 40 energy and water utilities in nearly 30 countries around the world, helping them improve gender equality and opportunities for women in communities. predominantly male sectors.

Jessica also supports mainstreaming gender and inclusion in a multitude of Tetra Tech energy programs and has developed guidance for mainstreaming gender into energy innovations for entrepreneurship as part of the Powering Agriculture innovation program. ‘USAID. Jessica has designed several innovative tools to promote gender equality, from leadership training courses under USAID to a gender analysis web application. She also developed the USAID Toolkit for Monitoring and Evaluating Gender-Based Violence Interventions Across the Development Assistance Continuum and a series of guides on mainstreaming gender in infrastructure.

Jessica holds a graduate degree in international politics and development from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also holds a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from the Georgetown Institute for International Migration.

In the five years that you have managed the Engendering Utilities program, what kinds of changes in understanding and gender equality have you observed among the public services that Tetra Tech works with in developing countries?

Traditionally, this is a heavily male-dominated industry – only 25% of the energy workforce is female. We make changes throughout the employee lifecycle, ensuring that there are opportunities for women in generally more lucrative technical and managerial positions. Lately we have had more buy-in with our utility partners as they have been able to post increased income now that they have more women in the field and in management. Public services are also becoming models for each other. In the Dominican Republic, Dominican Edesur is very open to gender-based violence. The CEO told the Ministry of Labor that paternity leave is essential for the work environment and for changing cultural norms around childcare expectations for men and women. It influences changes nationally and has a ripple effect. An official of the Nigerian electricity company Electricity distribution company Eko, is committed to speaking regularly to its employees in the field about gender norms and sexual harassment. I am very honored to be a part of this program and to witness this change.

How can changes in energy jobs and workplace culture support gender equality in industry?

Ubiquitous cultural norms about what is acceptable for women to do or not to do, such as manual labor, still exist in many places. But with advancements in technology, many tasks that were once considered heavy manual labor may have changed and now require lucrative skills, which can be attractive to women and open up opportunities for them.

But that’s not enough: What we’ve seen with Engendering Utilities is that utilities can enrich their talent pool when they demonstrate that women can get jobs, thrive and grow. CEOs of partner utilities have publicly stated that gender equality is one of the key pillars of their business strategy. This has proven to attract more women, who see this employer as a place where they can be safe and respected and have the opportunity to grow in their careers. It goes much further than the natural technological progression of the industry.

How did you see the evidence that gender equality improves the performance of utility companies reflected in Tetra Tech’s work with utilities?

This is something we see quite often in many of our utilities, and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) in India is a good example. All of our partner utilities are experiencing revenue losses. Energy theft and non-payment of bills are among the most difficult and critical business issues many utilities face. At BRPL, they would continue to send men to read meters and collect bills, and men would be kicked out of homes where women are home alone and do not want to let a man in. Shivani Kumar, the General Manager of Customer Service and one of our attendees at Engendering Utilities, came up with the idea of ​​forming a team of 40 women in collections and reassessed their approach. They got to know community members by first name, talked about the importance of paying bills, and listened to the reasons people have difficulty paying. This team led by women has made almost 100% of the collections in this area. Now BRPL is replicating the approach in other areas, and other utilities are doing it as well. It’s not just about collecting invoices; it’s about seizing the opportunity to innovate and improve by harnessing the ideas of a diverse group of people.

How does the Engendering Utilities training help leaders increase opportunities for women working in public services?

We run a 12 month executive leadership program with Georgetown University that includes change management coaching every two weeks. One of the criteria for our utility partners on Engendering Utilities is that senior management not only demonstrate that they understand that gender equality is good for their business, but also that they are ready to take on a leadership role. leadership and to be a champion in this field. The public services send three senior executives to this program, including people who are influential and able to change policies and practices. Too often when an organization works on gender equality, it sends the most junior person to do it, someone who can come up with solid plans but lacks the power to make change. When you have an active and engaged team of leaders who can move this work forward, the magic happens.

We are currently testing an accelerated version of the program to introduce people to gender equality. It includes a train the trainer program where we partnered with five local universities with highly qualified faculty in Nigeria, Kenya, Vietnam, Colombia and Eastern Europe. They will learn to run an intensive one-week program focusing on Engendering Utilities good practice framework. Participants will leave with a gender action plan, then benefit from five virtual coaching sessions on managing change as they implement it. The goal is to build momentum, because small changes create more momentum to do more.

How else is Tetra Tech contributing to gender equality in the global energy sector?

Tetra Tech has many projects where gender is an integrated component. Fueling agriculture and the Grand Challenge Water and Energy for Food support entrepreneurs and innovative approaches at the crossroads of energy, agriculture and water. In these projects, Tetra Tech has incorporated gender into the criteria for innovators applying for funding and has a gender specialist to help innovators improve their products, reach, marketing, customer service and internal operations. . For a while, we have also mainstreamed gender into larger projects focused on institutional reforms, such as seeking mentorship or workforce development opportunities. As part of the project, we ensure that women’s organizations and politicians are involved in changes in the energy sector. Now we are working on ways to really systematize and strengthen our approach, both in gender specific energy programming and by incorporating lessons from Engendering Utilities into our other programs. In Southeast Asia, we are adapting the accelerated program model to seven countries under E4SEA and working with academic partners to address the pipeline of talent and awareness of women in STEM careers. As part of USAID’s Sustainable Energy Pakistan Project, we applied Engineering Utilities assessment principles and developed a mentoring program for women with energy employers. And as part of USAID’s Advancing Resilience Project on Sustainable Energy for Indonesia, we are working to find potential energy employers to support gender best practices.

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