About Engendering Utilities

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When women serve as leaders and employees, businesses benefit and company performance improves. USAID’s Engendering Utilities program increases gender equality in male-dominated industries around the world.

Launched in 2015, the Engendering Utilities program demonstrates USAID’s commitment to promote a path to self-reliance and resilience in developing countries by fostering enterprise-driven innovation, inclusive economic growth, and gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Engendering Utilities is a key activity under the U.S. Government’s new Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), which aims to reach 50 million women by 2025 through innovative and effective programs. The program strengthens organizations in male-dominated industries by identifying and implementing gender equality best practices that will help organizations meet their core business goals.

Strong Companies and Organizations Bolster Economies and Power Development

Resilient, reliable and commercially viable companies and organizations fuel economic growth, bolster economies, catalyze social development, create an enabling environment for private investment, reduce burdensome government subsidies that inhibit critical public investment, and support nations on their journey to self-reliance.

Women Represent Half of the World’s Employment Potential

Women are underrepresented in the global workforce at all levels, and are often excluded from formal employment opportunities. This is not simply an issue of fairness, it’s a missed economic opportunity. Working with partner organizations to better understand gender gaps and design interventions in outreach and recruitment; mentorship and leadership; and professional development, can help overcome these barriers.

Leveraging Female Talent Unlocks Innovation and Productivity

When women serve as leaders and employees of companies—including those in traditionally male-dominated industries—businesses benefit and performance improves. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that companies with greater gender diversity outperform their peers and benefit from higher employee satisfaction rates. An Ernst and Young (2016) study found that the top 20 most gender diverse power utilities significantly outperformed the bottom 20, in terms of return on equity.

Women also bring different perspectives to the difficult issues facing today’s corporations. Diversity of thought can result in better decision making and lead to more creative and innovative solutions. A 2012 UC Berkeley study found that companies with more women on their board of directors are more likely to be proactive in improving energy efficiency, lowering company costs, and to invest in renewable power generation.

A Phased Approach

At the core of Engendering Utilities’ approach is the effective implementation of evidence-based gender equality best practices. Based on its own groundbreaking research across 14 global electricity utilities, USAID’s Engendering Utilities program began working with an initial cohort of utilities in 2016 to improve gender equality and enhance business performance. For nearly two years, USAID partnered with seven utilities from five countries to implement tailored interventions to improve gender outcomes.

Through a customized best practices framework, demand-driven expert coaching, and a Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program, in partnership with Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, Engendering Utilities builds the capacity of leaders to identify critical gender equality gaps and implement interventions that directly increase opportunities for women within the company and strengthen the overall operations of the organization.

Today, USAID continues to expand this approach, currently working with 29 partner organizations from 21 countries, with plans to partner with additional organizations in 2021.

Last updated: November 19, 2020

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