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Winds of change sweep across the energy sector
By James Ngomeli | Updated Nov 10, 2017 at 11:22 EAT
KenGen Company
  • KenGen remains one of the most profitable and promising companies in the sector
  • Mrs Rebecca Miano was recently confirmed as the new Chief Executive Officer of KenGen 

A small but significant change is taking place in the energy sector. The confirmation of Mrs Rebecca Miano as the chief executive of KenGen falls perfectly within an emerging trend. Away from the jubilation seen in the social media and the energy sector in particular, the appointment of Mrs Miano represents an ongoing strategic positioning of women in what has otherwise been a man’s world.

KenGen remains one of the most profitable and promising companies in the sector. With the recently appointed CEO of National Oil also being a woman, we are seeing a shift in the market where opportunities in the energy sector are opening up for all to participate. But that’s not all. The recent appointments also show a shift from the tradition of picking top management from core engineering to business-oriented expertise.

Mr Kenneth Tarus and Fernandez Barasa, the current CEOs of Kenya Power and KETRACO respectively are accountants. Mr Tarus replaced Dr Ben Chumo, a human resource professional. That shift is driven by the fact that the consumer will always want an affordable, stable and quality energy as the shareholders demand good return on their investments.

In short, managing the energy business, just like other firms, has to do with growing customer base, innovation and reducing cost as managers find it crucial to put a face in all their policy decisions and outcomes.

The barriers and falling and the silver lining is unmistakable. If the uptake of science subjects have traditionally limited appointment of women to key positions in energy sector, this can no longer be an excuse. Moreover, every single woman hired becomes a mentor to hundreds others!

With the renewable energy sector thriving, there should be no reason to continue having few women at the top level decision making in energy organisations. Renewable energy has brought a world of new opportunities of gender inclusivity. According to International Renewable Energy Association there were 8.1million jobs created last year with Kenya approximately creating 20,000 jobs. These jobs have opened opportunity for women to be involved in the energy sector value chain. The government has also encouraged the energy sector players to continuously commit to the 30 per cent procurement rule and 40 per cent local content for youth and women.

The educations sector is slowly changing with engineering now focusing more on solving day to day issues .This kind of approach is what is endearing more women in join the engineering jobs. The gender lens is now magnified at the energy sector with the impact of the courses in saving humanity, protecting environment and improving economic empowerment taking center stage.

In the last five years the country has connected 5m households to the grid while the economic output is still low but growing steadily. We are seeing a strong link between energy access and women empowerment while firewood harvesting, cooking and fetching water have been occupying 70 per cent of women time in the rural area the narration is changing with energy access and renewable energy solutions . There is more time for productive work and financial independence is growing .Grass root women organisations are coming forward, donors are pouring in to build capacity, offer entrepreneurship training and prospects of trading within the value chain have improved quality of life. With the solar pump, cooling stations, irrigation kits using solar power. We can say that energy access improves gender equality

The education sector is growing with new courses in the renewable energy and sustainability that have added flavor to engineering. During the women in energy conference 2016 last year it was noted that women engineers are taking up post graduate studies and moving away from engineering completely. The PS energy Dr Njoroge while noting that it is very expensive venture to train an engineer actually costing government Sh500,000 there is need to tame that tide .

The growth path for an engineer is also becoming less and less attractive with the rigid system of promotion and hierarchy engineering is offering very few opportunities for men and women to grow in this companies .While other professions you can raise to full manager in a young age engineering is not possible to be a chief manager at a certain age .This is discouraging to many young engineers to pursue their career to its fullest.

There is also scarce data in the market to how the available opportunities in the energy sector. The sector was still believed to be male dominated with all activities and pictures depicting male colleagues with no gender lens. Hence the energy sector does not seem attractive .Mentorship opportunities are also in short supply as there are very few forums for mentorship in the sector of which it can be improved.

The networking opportunities are also few that need to be enhanced that will done .Therefore this kind of appointment at high level help to dispel the perceptions that the women cannot lead in the energy sector companies and encourages young women in schools to take STEM

Mr Ngomeli is the chairman of Chartered Institute of Marketing East Africa and an energy consultant


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