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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Why we won’t deliver the energy transition without women leading the way


4 min read

Dr Nawal Al-Hosany sitting on IE Week stage talking to EI President Juliet Davenport Photo: Oliver Dixon Photography/Energy Institute
Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), this year’s recipient of the EI President’s Award, speaks to EI President Juliet Davenport (left)

Photo: Oliver Dixon Photography/Energy Institute

Writing ahead of International Women’s Day, Nick Wayth CEng FEI, CEO of the Energy Institute and POWERful Women board member, explains why women will be instrumental in leading the energy sector on the road to net zero.

Last Thursday, 29 February 2024, Energy Institute President Juliet Davenport presented this year’s President’s Award to Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), at the closing dinner of International Energy Week 2024. This was the third consecutive time a woman has been the award recipient (after Rachel Kyte and Damilola Ogunbiyi).


I am sure there are some out there who would accuse the EI of woke virtue signalling, but this is far from the truth. The award is judged by the EI’s Council of Trustees, with a clear set of criteria aligned to our purpose and values. The shortlists have included a fabulously diverse mix of energy leaders from around the world, including some brilliant men. But in each case a woman was unanimously selected as the most worthy recipient.


Having met these incredible women, it is increasingly clear to me that without such strong female leaders at the top (and across all levels) of the sector we will simply not deliver the energy transition, and certainly not a just transition.


Why is this? 
I can think of a several material reasons (and SPOILER: I am not talking about positive discrimination).


  • Purpose. Male leaders (sweeping generalisation alert) are often driven by ego, power and money. Female leaders are more likely to be driven by purpose, social impact and inclusion – critical attributes for change.
  • Experience. Many female leaders have taken a non-linear path to the top, being willing – or often obliged – to take chances and career turns along the way. Nawal Al-Hosany talked about her journey from police officer, via architecture to energy. This creates a much broader perspective, bringing different skills and experiences to help solve the toughest challenges.
  • Aptitude. Females are often more effective at collaboration and compromise than their male counterparts. In my view, the number of female negotiators at COP28 – including Dr Nawal – played an important role in reaching the UAE Consensus.
  • Need. Women represent over 50% of humanity. The Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Professor Jim Skea FEI told International Energy Week that changing the demand patterns of billions of households is the next, vital and as-yet largely untapped part of the energy transition. We can’t hope to change our energy system if we don’t truly understand and represent every aspect of the communities in which we operate.


So what about men?
As a man, I have every confidence that men will remain critical to the energy transition too. After all, we need all the talent and experience we can find. I also believe male allies will be a crucial part of the coalition needed to bring about a more effective, inclusive and representative workforce.


But I bet if the last three President’s Award winners had been men, not many people would have noticed. For decades people didn’t blink at all-male boards or executive teams, or all-male candidate slates. Even today, the EI’s POWERful Women data show one in five of the UK’s energy boardrooms have no women on them. Zero. Imagine if your company were to miss out at the highest level on all of the positives I have just listed.


Ask for better
So this year, if you REALLY want to #InspireInclusion, and not just pay lip service, think about who is sitting around every table, who is on your candidate slate, who is in every meeting and who is on the award shortlist; and if it’s not the right mix, then ask for better.


I’m really looking forward to seeing which amazing people – more amazing women and maybe even a few amazing men – receive the EI President’s Award in the coming years.


Happy #IWD2024!