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Electricity Human Resources Canada’s Merertu Mogga Frissa (Program Manager of Diversity & Inclusion) and Alex Hosselet (Manager of Marketing and Communications) were recently invited to present and panel by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Working Group (EWG) at their workshop: Enhancing Women’s Empowerment in Energy Field: Mapping Energy Policies with Gender Perspective . The workshop was organized by Bureau of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Chinese Taipei with a goal to promote dialogue and communication between experts from energy and gender sectors of member economies. The workshop was hosted in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) from August 5 to 6 and was attended by approximately 100 delegates from APEC member economies. Merertu provided an overview of the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity as a tool to promoting women working in the clean energy sector. She also participated as a panelist and moderated a panel discussion on Gender and Renewable Energy. Alex presented Renewable Energy as a Model for Integrating Women into the Workforce (with a heavy focus on how the renewables are marketed) and panelled on the Gender and Renewable Energy block.

This is a conversation between Merertu and Alex about the experience and what they learned from it.

Alex: So now that we’re back and recovering from the 12-hour time difference, what were your biggest takeaways from presenting and panelling in Taiwan?

Merertu: This workshop was a clear indicator that “one size doesn’t fit all”. The presenters were very diverse—people from all sorts of experiences and countries in one spot. There were economists, educators, policy analysts, entrepreneurs, government representatives: all different perspectives, working in different geographies, environments and economies with unique challenges and potential areas that can be improved and refined through the application of energy policies with a gender perspective.

Alex: My lasting impression is how some of our challenges span across borders (like energy transition, more female diversity and inclusion), whereas others were very distinct (like Canada’s geographic challenges and each country’s resource landscape). In some ways, we were tackling the exact same issues (especially around gender diversity), but in other ways, the logistical and environmental challenges of each country were totally unique.

Merertu: The way I see our experiences, one country can’t directly compare to another: we have different resources, and in terms of gender diversity, different levels of achievement that cannot be measured against another country. We can’t say that Canada is clearly better. Each country is different, and while we could be heading in the same direction to ensure women’s participation in the energy sector, our paths are different.

Alex: It was really encouraging to see so many experts step up to enthusiastically talk about women in energy. It’s great that this is an issue taken seriously by all the participating economies. I think we have a lot we can learn and model from each other. I was so proud when you were talking about the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity and how much of an impact we’re seeing it have here in Canada.

Merertu: I felt that The Accord was something that made an impression, and that the other participants wanted to adapt and adopt it for their own economies. We observed people wanting to use it as a tool to influence their leaders and possibly inform their policies, while recognizing that it requires localization for it to work for them. As per the conversation I had with some experts, we can not affect sustainable change by word, but by action. Of course, the action will be unique and different for each of the countries represented.

Alex: I found a similar response with my presentation about the marketability of renewables: I felt that it was well-received and action-oriented. But the challenges and cultures for each participant are different, so they have to recognize what they can use and then build the rest of it for their own situation. I do think we’re seeing an overall shift in culture from an economic level down to individual businesses in terms of understanding the value of having teams with women, if not broader, intersectional diversity and inclusion.

Merertu: Yes—it seems like everyone understands the need to increase women’s participation and that they need to be included in conversations and decision making on economic issues.  What I also noted was that these same conversations that recognized the economic participation of women also address both youth and the elderly. Conversations about inclusion don’t start with policy for most participating economies: they start from a focus on people and then solutions are built from there. Many of the economies discussed interesting initiatives and policies. I found the focus on what benefits communities and society (while supporting the existing family structure) when developing policy distinct to Asia Pacific countries represented at the workshop.

Alex: That being said, I found that the participants were really excited about what we’re doing in Canada. That includes both our renewable energy output, effective policies, and our increasing involvement of women in the energy sector. After seeing your presentation, along with the presentations of Joanna and Aisha from Women in Renewable energy (WiRE), the representative next to me from Vietnam remarked, “wow: Canadian women are so strong”. I was very proud of that, and I agreed with her. EHRC and WiRE were invited because of the great work we do in an economy with a world-class energy sector. I was really honoured to speak about the work we’re doing.

Merertu: They really wanted to learn about our progress, and how we got to where we are. It’s also about how we are working with Indigenous people, newcomers to Canada, and visible minorities. Some participants were keen to explore ways on how they can increase the participation of their own Indigenous people in the energy sector. I think this conversation took place because of my personal background; me being a black woman. 😀

Alex: Very true. As I mentioned at the start, there are some challenges that we all seem to have in common. It’s clear that almost all energy sectors are lacking participation from specific groups, and we’re exploring different ways to change that.

Merertu: While we’re tackling the same challenges, different countries are at very different levels. In some ways, we’re really advanced on issues, yet we’re behind on others. It’s important to regularly connect and support each other. We must identify similar gaps and opportunities, as well as how to influence government, politicians, and policymakers to make change happen. The policy recommendations collected at the conclusion of the workshop reflect that.

Alex: I fully agree. I got a lot of questions on marketing about how the participants can steer both consumers and policymakers in their economies to integrate women into the workforce, as well as adopt renewable energy sources. There’s a lot of work ahead for all of us, but this was an outstanding opportunity to connect and collaborate on how we can make the most impact in the years to come.

Merertu: There’s a strong will to make change happen. It was a pleasure and honour to meet so many inspiring women and men working in energy with a clear vision of where they want to go. I appreciate the opportunity that was given to us. We were very well-treated by our impeccable hosts.

Alex: I echo that sentiment. I hope that we’ll be participating in more similar international policy discussions where we can highlight the excellent work we’re doing in Canada and learn from the best practices of other countries, cultures, and economies.