Gender and Energy

Domestic energy is one of most important sources of energy consumption in region, primarily firewood, charcoal and animal waste. In Nicaragua, for example, firewood constitutes close to 94% of the energy used at the household level. 19% of the Latin America population relies on traditional biomass technologies for household cooking – approximately 85 million people. 61 milliion of these are in rural areas. Seven percent of the population has no access to electricity, about 31 million people (International Energy Agency, 2011). Firewood is the most common form of energy for cooking, with sustainability, gender and health implications:

  • For the poor, quality of biomass energy tends to be low, and it gives off quantities of smoke and particulates that cause a higher incidence of lung and eye diseases among women and girls who spend long hours of exposure to smoke and particulates in kitchens.
  • Women and girls tend to be responsible for gathering firewood, affecting their health and keeping girls away from school.
  • The several hours a day spent in collecting fuel means that this time cannot be used for other livelihood activities, with the amount of time spent increasing as environmental degradation increases. (IAE, 2010; Energia 2010; Branco, 2002).

Energy development has generally benefitted urban users much more than rural communities. Many people do not have access to energy in the quantity and form they need to satisfy their basic household and productivity needs, and so remain in poverty. Problems with access to energy are greatest in the rural areas where electrical power is insufficient. This is often a gender issue, as men increasingly migrate to urban areas in search of employment. Additionally, women tend to be the most affected by lack of electricity, being required to substitute physical labour to accomplish their household tasks (IAE, 2011; Branco, 2002).

Other gendered perspectives on energy use include different uses for energy. For example, men tend to view the benefits of electricity in terms of leisure, quality of life and education for children; while women see it as a way to reduce workload, improve health and reduce expenditure. Women are generally responsible for household energy use, while men tend to make the decisions concerning energy sources that are purchased. Batteries, for example, required in areas without electricity, are very expensive for poor rural households, and are often used for luxury items such as radios and televisions rather than for labour-saving appliances (Clancy et al, 2003; and McDade and Clancy, 2003).

The effects of privatisation and commercialisation of energy and subsequent removal of direct subsidies on fuels and appliances will affect energy supply to the rural poor in terms of accessibility and availability. It also obstacles to the introduction of renewable energies since many have high initial investment costs and are otherwise out of the reach of the poor. Privatisation could contribute to sustainable livelihoods for women by offering new opportunities to enter the market in providing and maintaining local renewable energy services (Clancy et al, 2003; Branco, 2002).

Women are poorly represented in the energy sector as energy professionals. Female responses to a 2008 survey of energy professionals from 75 countries by the Energy Institute in the UK made up only 9% of total responses. At the Executive and Board levels, the percentages are even lower (Ipsos MORI, 2008). A survey of large energy companies in Germany, Spain and Sweden found that 64% had no women at all in boards or management groups and only 5% had 40% or more women in such positions (Carlsson-Kanyama, Isabel Ripa Juliá and Ulrike Röhr, 2010 – see link below). Many initiatives are emerging to promote women’s development, management and maintenance of clean energy initiatives in the developing world, as well as to run enterprises based on clean energy sources (see links below).

Relevant energy issues for women include whether lower priced conversion technologies or mass production can improve access to energy at the household level, how women can be trained as energy professionals and technicians in renewable energies as a capacity building strategy, and how renewable energies can base small-scale income generating enterprises for both women and men in rural areas.

Proyecto de Promoción y Difusión de la Norma ISO 14064, financiado por la CAF y ejecutado por IBNORCA y Servicios Ambientales S.A. Proyecto de Promoción y Difusión de la Norma ISO 14064, financiado por la CAF y ejecutado por IBNORCA y Servicios Ambientales S.A.


  • Branco, Adélia de Melo. "Gender and Energy Issues in Latin America." ENERGIA (August 2002). Regional Paper Prepared for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. April 6, 2011.
  • Clancy, Joy S., M. Skutsch, S. Batchelor. "The Gender-Energy-Poverty Nexus." (2003). DFID Project CNTR998521. April 6, 2011.
  • ENERGIA. Fact Sheet on Energy, Gender and Sustainable Development. n.d.. Web. March 22, 2011.
  • International Energy Agency (IAE). World Energy Outlook 2011. Paris: International Energy Agency, 2011.
  • Ipsos MORI. Energy Professionals and the World's Energy Future. London: Energy Institute, 2008.
  • McDade, Susan and Joy Clancy. " Introduction." Energy for Sustainable Development 7.3 (2003): 3-7.
  • Neumayer, Eric and T. Plumper. "The gendered nature of natural disasters: the impact of catastrophic events on the gender gap in life expectancy, 1981–2002." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97.3 (2007): 561-566. Print.
    United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012. New York : United Nations, 2012.


  • Where Energy is Women's Business:
    National and Regional Reports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific

    ENERGIA, 2007. Compilation of national and regional gender and energy reports in preparation for discussions on access to energy at the 14th and 15th session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development.

  • Energy for Underserved Populations - Gender Considerations

    Presentation by Patricia Taboada-Serrano, Liaison to the IANAS Energy Program, IANAS Women for Science Working Group, 2011.

  • Concepts and Issues in Gender and Energy

    Commissioned by ENERGIA. The paper outlines gender concepts and how these manifest themselves in the energy sector. It identifies some key issues of how energy plays a role in transforming women’s lives. It is divided into two sections: the first section defines gender concepts and places them in the context of the energy sector, while the second section describes issues of gender and energy.

  • Energy, Gender and Development: What are the Linkages? Where is the Evidence?

    World Bank, 2012. This report reviews the literature on the links between energy access, welfare, and gender in order to provide evidence on where gender considerations in the energy sector matter and how they might be addressed. Prepared as a background document for the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, and part of the Social Development Department's ongoing work on gender and infrastructure, the report describes and evaluates the evidence on the links between gender and energy focusing on: increased access to woodfuel through planting of trees and forest management; improved cooking technologies; and access to electricity and motive energy.

  • Energy and Gender in Rural Sustainable Development

    FAO, 2006. This paper discusses some gender issues and energy linkages within the international sustainable development context and presents recommendations on ways of incorporating gender sensitivity into energy and development policies and planning processes.

  • The Role of Women in Sustainable Energy Development

    National Renewable Energy Laboratory, June 2000. This study explores the question of how sustainable energy development – specifically, decentralized renewable energy technologies – can complement and benefit from the goal of increasing women's role in development. Why do women need renewable energy? Are women really interested in renewable energy technologies (RETs)? Will women automatically benefit from RETs? Why is a gender perspective relevant in the energy sector?

  • Gender, Energy Technologies and Climate Change

    Sustainable energy technologies are essential for effective climate change responses, as well as for economic and social advancement, including increased access to food, water, shelter, sanitation, medical care, schooling and information. Climate change is likely to make the lives of women in developing countries even more difficult. However, there is also great potential for climate-related funds and mechanisms to support new investments in low-carbon, renewable and energy-efficient technologies that would benefit women while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Invisible Market: Energy and Agricultural Technologies for Women's Economic Advancement

    ICRW, 2012. This research explores what it takes for technology initiatives, specifically in the energy and agricultural sectors, to reach and economically benefit women in developing countries through market-based strategies that have the potential for achieving scale and financial sustainability.


  • Renewable Energy in Bolivia

    Gisela Ulloa V. Sunia, prepared for the IANAS Energy Program. Includes a section on Gender and Climate Change.

  • Energy, Women and Rural Poverty: a Review Focusing on Latin America

    Rath, Amitav, May 2005. This review on rural poverty, energy and gender with a focus on Latin America has been commissioned to provide insights to a larger project being undertaken by the University of Calgary and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), supported by the Canadian International Development Agency. A key objective of this project is to develop energy policy guidelines and startegies for rural energy development, incorporating social and gender issues.

  • Indoor air pollution and lower respiratory tract infections in children

    Report of a symposium and a workshop held at the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology, Paris, 4 September 2006, presenting preliminary results of a randomized intervention trial in Guatemala and discussing the implication for policy, advocacy and future research.

  • Longitudinal Relationship between Personal CO and Personal PM2.5 among Women Cooking with Woodfired Cookstoves in Guatemala

    Part of the Household Energy, Climate, and Health Project led by Kirk R. Smith, University of California, Berkeley.

  • Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives

 - Brief description and preliminary lessons on livelihood impacts from case studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Final Report, January 2009.

  • Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production: Minimizing the Risks to Maximize the Opportunities

    Andrea Rossi & Yianna Lambrou, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Rome 2008.

  • Solar-Based Rural Electrification and Microenterprise Development in Latin America: A gender analysis

    Smith, Julie A., 2000. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This paper describes the use of decentralized renewable energy systems as one approach to meet the energy needs of rural areas in Latin America. It outlines the advantages of a decentralized energy paradigm to achieve international development goals, especially as they relate to women. The paper studies Enersol Associates, Inc.'s Solar-Based Rural Electrification model as an example of a decentralized energy program that has merged energy and development needs through the local involvement of energy entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations and community members.

  • Peru Healthy Kitchen/Healthy Stove Pilot Project

    Beginning in 2003, the energy team of USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade, and the environmental health team of the Bureau for Global Health jointly supported a cooperative agreement with Winrock International to develop models to reduce indoor air pollution by combining fuel-efficient cooking technologies with behavior change messages and market-based distribution mechanisms. Winrock developed two project models: a peri-urban model piloted in Bangladesh for poor households and a rural model piloted in the highlands of Peru for indigenous communities.

  • A Case Study in the Brazilian Amazon Region: a Gender Approach to Energy Supply

    Branco, Adelia de Melo, 2002. The case study presented here focuses on a poverty alleviation project developed to serve as a model for promoting sustainable development through the use of renewable energy in the Amazon region. Gender differences should be considered in poverty mitigation projects because of the very important role women play in the household and productive activities in poor households.

  • Gender and Prepayment Electricity in Merlo, Argentina

    ENERGIA News vol. 9 nr 1 • 2006. This article reports on an approach followed by the utility Edenor in the suburb of Merlo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to legalise illegal connections and to recover consumption costs by installing prepayment meters. In particular, we look at the different impacts this approach has had on men and women.

  • Nicaragua makes efforts on Gender Equality in the Energy Sector

    The OLADE-CIDA Cooperation Project and the Sub-project on Equality and Gender held coordination meetings with the Gender Unit of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Nicaragua (MEM) and the National Electricity Transmission Company, ENATREL in May 2013.

  • Rural Electrification in remote areas of Bolivia and Guatemala

    The Latin American Energy Organization, OLADE, is developing rural electrification projects in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in remote areas of Bolivia and Guatemala to increase rural electrification rates in the Region, and encourage the economic and productive development of isolated communities, using energy as a tool for development. The project will incorporate: Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability Schemes, Gender Equality, direct participation of indigenous peoples, foster production projects and promote the establishment of Community companies in the administration, operation and maintenance of projects.


  • OLADE - CIDA Project: Development of Gender Equality in Energy Decision-making and Energy Access

    The project will put gender equity principles and their dissemination and application into the mainstream activities of OLADE and the Member Countries, as they develop energy policy and implement various energy sector initiatives.

  • Gender and Energy Development Strategies (GEDS)

    ESMAP, Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, World Bank. The GEDS program includes (i) gender based impact of energy service provision; (ii) enhancing women’s economic opportunities in energy SME development; (iii) gender dimension in climate change mitigation and adaptation; (iv) knowledge generation, dissemination and outreach; (v) capacity building of government counterparts and facilitating counterpart partnership.

  • Gender, Climate Change and Energy Production & Consumption

    Women for Climate Justice is a global network of women and gender activists and experts from all world regions working for gender and climate justice.

  • UNESCAP Project on Capacity Building on Integration of Energy and Rural Development Planning

    The UNESCAP project “Capacity building on integration of energy and rural development planning” aims to promote rural energy development through capacity building on integration of energy and rural development issues, stakeholder involvement and facilitation of information exchange among stakeholders. The project is developed to enhance national capacities in identifying linkages between energy and rural development to promote long-term, integrated and well-coordinated rural energy planning.


  • Mainstreaming Gender in Energy Projects: A Practical Handbook & Resource Pack

    ENERGIA, December 2011. This Handbook on mainstreaming gender in energy projects seeks to provide guidance, practical tools and examples for energy projects that show how to undertake gender mainstreaming systematically. It  is aimed at both energy project managers and staff, as well as gender experts who are tasked with mainstreaming gender by their organizations.

  • Gender Tool Kit: Energy: Going Beyond the Meter.

    Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2012. This tool kit assists staff and consultants of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in conceptualizing and designing gender-responsive projects in the energy sector. It guides users in key questions to be asked and data to be collected during project preparation. It also offers a menu of entry points in designing project outputs, activities, inputs, indicators, and targets that integrate key gender issues identified during the gender analysis. The tool kit is broken down into key subsectors of ADB’s energy sector investments—transmission and distribution, rural electrification, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Case studies from ADB energy projects have been included to illustrate good practices in mainstreaming gender in energy sector.

  • ENERGIA Training Modules on Gender and Energy

    Training packages have been designed by ENERGIA for the training of selected practitioners (policy makers, planners and project implementers, NGOs, private sector and academia) to increase their understanding of gender and energy inter-relationships and their capacity to bring gender aspects of energy into the policy and project planning.

  • Mainstreaming Gender in Energy – Knowledge Products

    Includes packages on: Gender Mainstreaming in Rural Electrification Programmes; Gender Mainstreaming in Biogas Programmes; and Institutionalising Gender Mainstreaming Processes in Energy Organisations.

  • Guidelines on Renewable Energy Technologies for Women in Rural and Informal Urban Areas

    The IUCN Gender Office in partnership with ENERGIA has published the Guidelines on Renewable Energy Technologies for Women in Rural and Informal Urban Areas. The Guidelines are a decision support tool empowering women to make informed decisions for choosing appropriate efficient renewable green energy technologies.The guidelines were tested among women and woMen’s groups working in rural and informal urban areas in Latin America.

  • A Guide on Gender Mainstreaming in the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme

    ENERGIA has developed a Gender Mainstreaming Guide for the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP). The Guide targets non-gender specialists in recognizing and addressing gender issues in their work, with the intention of demystifying gender, and clarifying the concept and practice of “gender mainstreaming” within ABPP. Accompanied by a Resource Kit, this Guide uses experiences from Asia, as well as Africa. The guide is not only limited to the ABPP and can be used by other biogas interventions as well.

  • Gender Mainstreaming - a Key Driver of Development in Environment & Energy

    UNDP. This training manual is developed to help build greater understanding among UNDP staff and partners about the essential gender dimensions involved in ensuring environmental and energy sustainability. It gives an overview of gender issues in environment and energy and how to mainstream gender in policy and practice.

  • Energy and Gender for Sustainable Development: A Toolkit and Resource Guide

    UNDP. This toolkit and resource guide provides tools to help development practitioners ask the relevant questions needed to bring about better development and energy outcomes that are gender specific and that address the needs of women in particular

  • Mainstreaming Gender in Energy Planning and Policies

    UNESCAP project on Capacity Building on Integration of Energy and Rural Development Planning. Background Paper For Expert Group Meeting 2003.


  • Women's Role in the Clean Energy Economy

    Women Will Be Critical Workers and Innovators of the Future. It’s true that men have been hit the hardest in the recession as far an unemployment numbers go, but we will need to seize the opportunity to diversify the future workforce in a way that will incorporate all workers in all areas of the clean energy economy including those where women have been traditionally underrepresented.

  • Women in the Wind Industry

    Women are under-represented in wind and the other renewable energy industries, according to Kristen Graf, Executive Director of Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). She believes progress in renewables may depend on correcting that.

  • Women of Wind Energy

    Women of Wind Energy, or WoWE (pronounced WOW-ee) was founded in 2005 to ensure that women can play a full, productive role in the development of wind power.

  • Council on Women In Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL)

    The Council on Women in Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) provides a network for women in the energy and environmental industries that can assist in supporting career development for professional women, mentor young and aspiring women to pursue technical education and careers in the energy and environmental fields, and establish CWEEL as a forum for women to promote policy in the energy industry.

  • Women in Energy: Closing the Gender Gap

    A special session at the first World Petroleum Congress on the role of women in today’s industry environment.

  • Industry Sector Opportunities: Women Working in Alternative Energy Fact Sheet – Revised

    USDOL, August 2010.

  • Women Working in Green Construction and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet

    Workforce development professionals have a unique opportunity to coalesce the interests of employers and potential employees while helping to ensure that women are poised to take full advantage of the green economy; especially in green construction and energy efficiency retrofitting, renovation, and energy sourcing.

  • Clean Energy Education and Empowerment 'C-3E' Women's Initiative,

    a product of President Obama’s commitment to expand education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields for women. The C-3E Women’s Initiative aims to inspire young women to pursue studies that will enable them to participate in the clean energy revolution.

  • Grameen Shakti for Renewable Energies

    In Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti is training rural women to be solar technicians and enabling green entrepreneurs through a highly successful microcredit program. The project focuses on the economic empowerment of rural women by training them to install and maintain photovoltaic Solar Home Systems (SHS), Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS) and Biogas plants.

  • Unequal representation of women and men in energy company boards and management groups: Are there implications for mitigation?

    Energy Policy. Carlsson-Kanyama, Isabel Ripa Juliá and Ulrike Röhr. This survey shows that female representation in boards and management groups of large energy companies in Germany, Spain and Sweden is far from being gender-equal. Of the 464 companies surveyed, 295 (64%) had no women at all in boards or management groups and only 5% could be considered gender-equal by having 40% or more women in such positions.The findings are discussed against the background of differences in risk perceptions among women and men, evidence of women’s impact on boards and companies’ performance and the substantial risks related to unabated climate change.

*Document Updated: December 2013