Powering the Potential of Women’s Networks
It’s difficult for women to rise through the ranks of the power industry. Globally, women hold only 22% of jobs in the energy sector and lead less than 4% of energy companies. Professional women’s networks support women in male-dominated industries in countless ways. They connect women with female role models, colleagues to collaborate with, and mentors to learn from. But they are hard to launch and difficult to sustain.
To bridge that gap, Power Africa’s Women in Africa Power (WiAP) Network partnered with Engendering Industries to launch the Women’s Energy Network Sustainability Training and help early-stage women’s associations across Africa transition to mature organizations. Since 2021, Power Africa has provided virtual and in-person training to six professional women’s networks across Africa’s energy sector. The training helps networks define their mission, set goals, refine messaging, and amplify their public profile, which helps generate new partnerships, funders, and more sustainable income streams.
In 2021, Ethiopia Women in Energy Network (EWiEN) relied on a single Ethiopian funder, and the network’s founders worried about the organization’s future. “We wanted to diversify our resource pool to ensure the association’s long-term financial sustainability,” said Linda Lapiso, Vice President of EWiEN. The Network Sustainability Training helped the EWiEN team align its mission statement with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, opening them to global funding sources that they had never considered before.
"Now we have working partnerships with energy agencies, as well as many national and international NGOs, training institutes, and other organizations that support gender mainstreaming in the energy sector," Lapiso said.
Organizations like EWiEN start the Network Sustainability Training with great passion and promise for their ventures. The training ensures this positive energy is bolstered by the business fundamentals needed to power the network and the careers of its members.
"Women's networks provide valuable mentorship opportunities [to women], but launching the networks can be tenuous because founding members are typically volunteers with busy careers," said Liz Ngonzi, Women’s Energy Network Sustainability training facilitator. “Even if they’ve been operating for a while, there’s often a lack of recognition of the unique value proposition.” The training helps clarify this for organizations by asking the management team to reflect on current activities, long-term vision, objectives, and operational procedures.
Women's networks provide valuable mentorship opportunities [to women], but launching the networks can be tenuous because founding members are typically volunteers with busy careers," said Liz Ngonzi, Women’s Energy Network Sustainability training facilitator.
The program starts by ensuring the organization’s mission is clearly articulated and written with key stakeholders in mind. "A lot of people write mission statements without understanding the stakeholders, writing something like, ‘We’re helping women get more jobs.’ Really, that doesn’t speak to stakeholder needs," Ngonzi explained. "Beyond women, the key stakeholders are governments, employers, and philanthropic institutions. What challenges do they have? For example, countries have problems creating economic growth, so a network needs to convey how increasing opportunities for and advancing women contributes to economic development. This positions the network as a viable partner."
Once the network has refined its mission, the course helps them set goals to achieve it. “We start by setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound,” Ngonzi says. These goals can then be broken into specific activities and budgets.
This process helps organizations stay focused on just the things that matter to their business, which was key for Women in Energy Network (WIEN) in Nigeria. “We had a map with 56 objectives,” said Funmi Ogbue, WIEN’s President. “[The program] helped us come together to articulate a common agenda focused on just three things, which was a game changer,” said Ogbue. WIEN’s leaders decided to focus on growing paid membership to generate income for office space and staff, facilitating mentorships, and launching an incubator for the next generation of female entrepreneurs. “As long as we put the energy behind these goals, we will be successful in making women succeed in the energy industry,” Ogbue explained.
The final stage of the Network Sustainability Training helps organizations polish their public image. Networks update their websites and social media, refresh marketing materials, and take professional headshots. When all of the pieces are in place, the networks are then ready to share their brands widely.
The Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) Ghana network had not officially launched when their leaders participated in an in-person Network Sustainability course in 2023. “Our main challenge was trying to get women on board,” said Marina Dede K. Agortimevor, the network’s lead. But, by the end of the training, the CWEEL team felt confident enough in their pitch materials that they invited a representative from the Volta River Authority (VRA), a potential sponsor, to their capstone presentation at the end of the course. The VRA representative was impressed by the mission and polish, so they quickly signaled interest in building a partnership, setting CWEEL on the path to growth.
“They have the highest number of females in the sector and that could help us get others to come on board, too,” said Agortimevor.
At the end of the training, organizations emerge with a clear understanding of how to leverage their unique value proposition and support women in energy across Africa. As each succeeds, they are powering the next generation of female leaders on the continent.