The Engendering Utilities Approach

As a result of Engendering Utilities’ innovative approach, partner utilities have significantly expanded their talent pools for recruitment and diversified their organizations.

At the core of Engendering Utilities’ approach is the effective implementation of evidence-based gender equality best practices. Today, USAID continues to expand this approach, opening the door to new partner utilities in both the energy and water sectors, while continuing to provide tailored coaching to current partners.

Conducting Groundbreaking Research on Gender Disparity in the Energy Sector

The Engendering Utilities program began with a study—the first of its kind—to examine the role of women and gender disparities within 14 electric power distribution companies in developing countries. The data showed wide variation in employment practices and outcomes and suggested that women were excluded from the majority of jobs within these companies. The findings illustrated inequalities in employment outcomes and disparities in the way utilities run their businesses, both of which ultimately impact women’s ability to fully participate in the energy sector. As the program expands to include the water sector, the program will build upon knowledge from recent research specific to gender disparity in the water sector.

Partnering with Utilities to Increase Gender Equality, Create Leadership Opportunities and Develop Talent

Based on its own research, USAID’s Engendering Utilities program began working with an initial cohort of seven electricity utilities in 2016 to improve gender equality and enhance business performance. Over the past three years, USAID has partnered with 17 utilities from 14 countries to implement tailored interventions to improve gender equality outcomes, guided by an evidence-based approach that includes global best practices, a Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program, and tailored change management coaching.

As a result of the interventions implemented thus far, all of the first cohort of graduated utilities saw an increase in the number of female employees. Most graduated utilities also saw an increase in the number of women participating in employee training programs, and some saw an increase in the number of women trainees hired, the number of women interviewed, and the number of women participating in internship programs. Additionally, all of the partner utilities have reviewed their human resources procedures and benefits against a global standard and are in the process of adopting equal opportunity statements. They have also conducted salary reviews to examine gender gaps in pay and are collecting sex-disaggregated employee satisfaction data, many for the first time in the company’s history.

Transforming the Employee Life Cycle to Solidify Long-term Organizational Change

In 2017, USAID refined the approach of the Engendering Utilities program to focus specifically on improving gender equity throughout the employee life cycle. From attraction and talent outreach to separation and retirement, there are numerous opportunities to promote gender equality within utilities.

The Engendering Utilities Best Practices Framework

To serve as a guide for implementing gender equity practices throughout the employee life cycle, USAID developed Delivering Gender Equality: A Best Practices Framework for Utilities. This compilation of global best practices is a tool to increase gender equity throughout the employee life cycle—helping utilities benchmark their current policies, practices and operations. A description is provided for each best practice, as well as potential implementation challenges, examples of successful implementation, and tools, resources, and templates that provide additional information on each best practice.

Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program

Developed by USAID and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, the Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program delivers a best-in-class curriculum that spans the breadth of the employee life cycle. The course empowers partner utility employees, including administrators, operational area managers, and other key decision-makers, to effectively integrate gender equality initiatives within their corporate structure. Each partner utility conducts analysis to understand key gender equity gaps, and designs and implements appropriate interventions throughout their participation in the program.

Expert Coaching

USAID pairs each utility partner with an expert change management and gender equality coach. The coach delivers tailored technical support to partner utilities as they work through the Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program to analyze gaps, design and implement interventions, and monitor their progress toward gender equality and strengthening business outcomes.

Robust Monitoring and Evaluation

Using a customized scorecard tool, utilities and their dedicated coaches track the progress of gender equality interventions and their impact on organizational performance.

Last updated: March 26, 2020

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