Closing the Gender Gap | Program Profile

Powering Gender Equality through The Energy Sector 

Gender inequality cuts across all aspects of life, including employment in the energy sector. The education and professional development for women in the energy sector are limited. According to recent estimates, women account for only 22 percent of the oil and gas sector employees and about 33 percent in renewables (IRENA, 2019).  To successfully achieve gender equality and empowerment (Sustainable Development Goal 5), efforts need to be scaled up in decision-making, economic participation, domestic violence prevention, and ensuring women participate in the labor force.

Without additional concerted efforts, it could take nearly a century and a half (135.6 years according to recent estimates) to close the global gender gap. Yet, promoting gender equality can have a significant positive impact on poverty reduction, expansion of access to opportunities, and an overall improvement in development indicators. Indeed, action to close the gender gap has become an essential priority in the context of a post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery.   

ESMAP has built considerable momentum for closing gender gaps through its global Gender and Energy Program, which includes six regional gender programs. These have helped strengthen women's roles as consumers, employees, and entrepreneurs in the energy sector. These efforts are aligned with the World Bank Group Gender Strategy. In addition, ESMAP has used the lessons learned during the implementation phase to work with countries to design interventions and generate crucial knowledge of actions needed to close gender gaps in the sector and improve development outcomes.  

ESMAP gender activities address gender inequalities in the following areas: 

  • Improving female participation in the energy sector workforce 
  • Improving women’s productivity and livelihoods 
  • Improving women’s access to modern energy services that meet needs 

The Gender and Energy Global Program actively collaborates with the six regional gender programs on a wide range of country engagements to address various sector challenges. The Program also works across ESMAP facilities in renewable energy, clean cooking, decarbonization, energy access, and others.  

ESMAP Gender and Energy Program Activities

  • Supporting teams working in low and middle-income countries to ensure they are equipped with technical tools and advisory to adequately include gender equality initiatives in energy operations. 
  • Covering knowledge gaps on gender issues by crafting and promoting labor markets assessments.
  • Conducting research on how women access their energy needs and how productivity can be increased once these energy needs are met.
  • Producing innovative knowledge regarding women in electricity sector.
  • Sharing the results of the Program’s research publicly and with a wide range of stakeholders including international organizations, client governments, donors, and experts. 
  • Conducting policy dialogues with client governments to highlight the importance of policies and initiatives targeted to closing the gender gap as well as increasing awareness regarding inequality. Policy dialogues are alternated with high-level briefings, presentations of gender assessments, and proposed activities for client countries to implement.  
  • Advocating and setting the agenda on pressing gender topics through strategic interventions in public and close-doors events, briefings, meetings, and missions.


The Gender and Energy Program is working with teams to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and ensure that women are not left behind during vaccination campaigns to promote an inclusive post-pandemic recovery. In addition, the program recognizes that women are agents of change in their communities and represent a valuable resource to close the vaccine information gap. 

 Additionally, gender has been mainstreamed into the ESMAP-funded activities supporting the design of the projects such as Access to Distributed Electricity and Lighting in Ethiopia. The Gender and Energy program has also produced analytical evidence on gender equality and designed possible actions to address gender gaps. As a result, specific activities have been included in the project design to increase the number of women in mini-grids and off-grid technology value chains and narrow the gender gap in productive uses of energy and entrepreneurship. It has also provided technical assistance to help commercial banks think through alternative credit risk assessment approaches to support companies that adopt diverse business practices and are also led and owned by women. 

 Finally, thanks to the program’s efforts, energy lending operations that promote gender equality and monitoring indicators that address relevant gender issues increased from 79 percent in 2020 to 91 percent in 2021.

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