Leaders from government, business and academia yesterday convened in Abu Dhabi for the second annual Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) conference under the theme ‘Practical steps towards sustainable innovation.’ The event was organised by Masdar in partnership with the Zayed Future Energy Prize.
The conference, a key event at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, sought to discuss the collaborative role that governments and businesses can play in fostering sustainable innovation, and the critical importance of including women in this dialogue.
Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, WiSER Programme Director, Executive Director of Sustainability and Brand at Masdar, and Director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, said: “At WiSER, we seek to ensure that women are the drivers of change for a sustainable future, enabling them to positively impact innovation and breakthroughs in policy, technology and business. Today’s event helps us understand the way forward to achieving this goal.”
“With greater mentoring and collaborative opportunities, our knowledge of the issues that uniquely impact women can be harnessed to deliver sustainable growth and innumerable societal benefits. Innovation in sustainability is critical to our future prosperity, and women have a central role to play in this regard,” Dr Al-Hosany continued.
Established in 2015, WiSER is an initiative that comes at critical point for women’s participation in renewable energy and sustainability. Women account for just 35% of the workforce in the renewable energy sector, according to the latest IRENA Renewable Energy Jobs Review 2016. The report concluded that while sector has seen a rise in the number of women employed, female labour force participation is still lower than the general economy average experienced by OECD countries (40-45 per cent).
WiSER partners with academic and research institutions, women’s networking groups and corporate interests in order to create education and training opportunities for women of all ages. Since its launch on the side lines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly, WiSER has been active in developing partnerships with a number of strategic organisations.
Recently, WiSER held a high-level event with Momentum for Change at the UN Climate Conference in Marrekech, COP22. The event came under a joint “Momentum for Change: Women for Results” and WiSER partnership, a key pillar of the Momentum for Change Lighthouse initiative, and recognised activities that demonstrate the critical leadership and participation of women in addressing climate change. The collaboration is designed to further the role of women in sustainability, with a focus on knowledge exchange.
Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute: “Creating opportunities for women in sustainability will allow us to unleash a wealth of knowledge and creativity within this industry. Particularly through our partnerships with private companies, Masdar Institute remains dedicated to nurturing the next generation of women to become sustainability leaders. Our public-private partnerships allow more women to gain the hands-on experience they need to join the ranks of innovators. With women playing an equitable role in the industry we can continue the momentum behind our transformation towards a fairer, more secure, and more sustainable future.”
The event in Abu Dhabi was designed as a platform so that participants could learn from experts who have dedicated their life to sustainability and furthering women’s participation in innovation. Speakers included: Graciela Chicilnisky, CEO and Co-Founder, Global Thermostat; Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office; Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute; Neha Misra, Co-founder and Chief Collaboration Officer, Solar Sisters; Dr Arwa Y. Al-Aama, Director, Smart Solutions Consulting; Jonathon Porritt, Founding Director, Forum for the Future; Dr Joao Carlos, Secretary of Energy and Mining, Sao Paulo; Maher Ezzeddine, Chairman and President, Harvard Business School Aerospace Alumni Group; Dr Barbara Buchner, Executive Director, Climate Finance, Climate Policy Initiative; Jamila Bargach, Director, Dar Si Hmad; Moza Al Naimi, Masdar Institute Phd student, and Dr Laura Stachel, Executive Director and Co-Founder of We Care Solar.
In the UAE, there has been an emphasis placed on education and training as a way to ensure more women are working in sustainability. In the fall enrollment of students at Masdar Institute, 68 per cent of the UAE nationals were women. Over 70 per cent of the UAE government university students are now women and among post-graduates, UAE National women account for 62 per cent in government universities.
Dr. Arwa Y. Al-Aama, Director, Smart Solutions Consulting: “Initiatives such as WiSER are critical if we want women to have access to the skills needed to be future leaders of innovation and sustainability. They also underline the leading role the UAE is playing in establishing platforms that place an emphasis on knowledge exchange and learning.”
Founded by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, and the Zayed Future Energy Prize, WiSER aims to empower and inspire women to be catalysts of innovation and the drivers of commercial solutions that will address climate change and secure access to food, energy and water.