Women Wanted: Solar Energy Sector in Middle East campaigns for female engineers

Combining the fight against climate change with the advancement of female participation, the new initiative “Women in Solar” sounds like a masterpiece in this respect. The initiative is aimed at engaging more women into roles within engineering and encourages female engineers to take up a career in the renewable energy sector. And to make the programme even more outstanding, it happens in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the region of unlimited oil wealth and rather poor women’s rights.

The Middle East Solar Power Association has formed the programme to grow the pool of skilled talents competing for jobs. Moreover, innovations and creativity are stimulated by allowing new perspectives within the energy sector, another field which has mainly been dominated by men. In order to include more women a mentoring programme was initiated, the Association also organises events with female role-models, who already have climbed the solar power career ladder. Dalya Al Muthanna, a member of the advisory board and a director at GE Power & Water in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey explains the main thought behind the initiatives: “Diversity has always been a tool to foster innovation, to challenge ideas.” So far, however, only 48 women work with 260 men in engineering and technology positions at GE.

Observers now hope for a spill-over effect and expect to see a further surge of interest as a consequence of the media coverage of the initiative. Over the past decade, the Middle-East unfolded an immense economic potential, but a higher female participation is needed to sustain the economic attractiveness. Still, the ratio of women and men is not good enough in the Middle-East, a situation which is weakening local companies in their international competition and which also has a devastating effect on international investors. EMEA Diversity expert Michael Stuber confirms this: “In my work and discussions with global Diversity Officers reservations about many Arabian parts of the Middle East prevail. International employers clearly have issues when they face restrictions in sending female or homosexual top talent out to this region.” He also hopes that economic benefits from the new female potential in the solar energy sector will serve as a showcase for others in the region.