KATHMANDU, Sept 22: Companies and women in Nepal would stand to benefit if greater action were taken to improve women's participation in and contribution to the hydropower sector, a study carried out by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, said on Tuesday.
The study of 20 companies is part of the Powered by Women initiative — a time-bound commitment by companies to build the business case for improved gender equality and diversity in renewable energy companies in Nepal.
The study was conducted between 2019 and 2020. Over two dozen executives and almost 250 employees working in 20 companies within Nepal's hydropower industry contributed to the research."Women make up more than half of Nepal's population, yet the study reveals only 10 percent of all employees in the country's hydropower sector are women," Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan has been quoted by the IFC in a press statement today.
"Companies need to seize the opportunity to embark on more gender-sensitive and family-friendly policies to help boost staff productivity and attract and retain talent which will ultimately boost their businesses."
"We recognize the need to make conscious efforts to increase the number of women in the power sector. Our organization has already taken a forward step by making women participation in the executive committee mandatory," Ashish Garg, Vice President of Independent Power Producers' Association of Nepal, has been quoted as saying in the press statement. "By partnering with IFC on this important initiative, we are committing to championing this cause.
The study has recommended that companies need to develop and enforce gender-sensitive policies, including mechanisms to address cases of bullying, sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation. More tailored programs to support professional development opportunities for women, such as more robust recruiting efforts directed at women's advancement into leadership positions and targets for diversity in board representation, are also encouraged.
Meanwhile, at the community level, the study has urged increased support from companies to women-led businesses, including improving their access to finance, and efforts to train women in non-traditional roles within the sector.
The study – spearheaded by IFC's Hydro Environmental and Social Advisory team in partnership with the governments of Australia, Norway and Japan – has shown very few of those employed are in leadership positions, included in corporate boards or occupy non-traditional roles in the hydropower sector.
"Despite the considerable scope for women to take up non-traditional roles in the hydropower sector, we found that most companies in Nepal have not yet initiated adequate efforts to realize this," Kate Lazarus, Asia Environment and Social Governance Team Leader for IFC, has been quoted in the press release as saying.
"While some companies, particularly those led by women entrepreneurs, do show willingness in this regard, there are still challenges in transforming that intent into action on the ground." The report has identified gender stereotyping, remoteness of hydropower project sites and a lack of women in science; technology, engineering, and math education as key constraints for women's participation in this sector.
Concerns around initial investment costs and uncertainty over whether there will be a pay off in the short- to medium-term were also inhibiting factors, according to the study. Nepal ranks 105 out of 149 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2018 conducted by the World Economic Forum, indicating that there is still a critical need to focus on gender equality across various spheres.