About Engendering Utilities

Engendering Utilities seeks to strengthen the energy and water sectors by increasing the professional participation of women.

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 energy and water sector operations by identifying and implementing gender equality best practices while helping utilities meet their core business goals.

Strong Energy and Water Sectors Power Development

Resilient, reliable and commercially viable electricity and water sectors serve as a foundation for self-reliance, creating an enabling environment for private investment, reducing burdensome government subsidies that inhibit critical public investment, and providing the tools to power economic growth and social development.

Women Represent Half of the World’s Employment Potential

Women are underrepresented at all levels of the global energy and water sectors, especially as employees in utilities, excluding them from a key source of formal employment. This is not simply an issue of fairness, it’s a missed economic opportunity. Working with partner utilities to better understand gender gaps and design interventions in outreach and recruitment; mentorship and leadership; and professional development, can help overcome these barriers.

Leveraging Women’s Talents Unlocks Innovation and Productivity

When women serve as leaders and employees of companies—including those in the energy and water sectors—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 utility leaders to identify critical gender equality gaps and implement interventions that directly increase opportunities for women within the company and strengthen utilities’ overall operations.

Today, USAID continues to expand this approach, currently working with 17 partner utilities from 14 countries, with plans to add up to 10 more partner utilities in 2020.

Last updated: March 26, 2020

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