Opening up Space for Women Leaders in Energy

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Today, STEM professionals in South Asia like Hemlata, Areesha, and Sukriti have turned calm and confident, with ardent listening and communication skills. They can effectively articulate complex energy concepts to their colleagues, students, investors, and policymakers and win their ‘buy-ins.’ They are leading their teams toward local energy sector goals. Thanks to the new skills they learned at the World Bank WePOWER STEM communication training, their professional careers received a shot in the arm. 

The inability to articulate STEM concepts to non-scientific audiences is a critical problem thwarting employability and economic flows, particularly in knowledge economies . Also known as the “GEEK Gap,” the STEM communication gap is a global social problem with more adverse impacts on emerging economies. The results of the “STEMcom: Powering Future Women Leaders” a collaborative project of the World Bank’s Social Development and Energy teams opened the leadership space for its women participants in the energy sector and the door to other sectors. Science communication training helps scientists better engage with the public and their stakeholders, and opens avenues for multi-sectorial dividends in education, jobs and livelihoods, among others .  

The STEM communication training benefited me greatly. I happened to have this training at an essential time during my career, and it helped me to build the needed confidence and leadership skills in me to enter my practical field. Now I’m working in the steel industry (cold rolling mill) as an assistant automation engineer.
Areesha Irfan
Electrical Engineer, Pakistan

Young women in South Asia take STEM courses in colleges regularly. However, they seldom get into well-placed STEM-related jobs that advance business and shape policy. Multifaceted strains such as marriage, the triple care burden of home and childcare, professional work and supporting community, and a lack of growth in a male-dominated technical workplace often thwart their career aspirations. Further, despite technical competence, poor STEM-related communication skills contributed to dismal female labor force participation in the South Asian Energy sector. The crux of the problem: difficulty in communicating their know-how to their employers and peers.

With an aim to have more women lead the work in energy transition to renewables and move toward knowledge economies, the pilot training used the South Asia Region Gender-Energy Facility (SAGE) platform that works to foster knowledge exchange and build capacity on gender issues within the South Asian energy sector. The six-week training covered soft skills, public speaking, and leadership to augment knowledge transfer abilities in women STEM professionals in India and Pakistan. The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Sciences, Stony Brook University, and the World Bank-WePOWER team collaborated to roll out the training digitally in the summer of 2021, despite COVID constraints. About 40 young participants, primarily women, learned through exercises and detailed role play how to listen and connect more effectively with an audience and articulate their professional vision and goals vividly, confidently, and authentically. A Pre, immediate Post, and a 12-month post-training survey were conducted to examine the impact.

STEMCom gave me the confidence to complete the course while managing everything else – family responsibilities, work pressure, and long hours of studies. I came out with flying colors. STEMCom is surely a milestone in my journey, which taught me to be passionate, confident, calm and polite at the same time.
Hemlata Joshi
STEM graduate, India

Going through the course, the participants felt they better appreciated the value of their profession to society. They were more eager to contribute as knowledge workers propelling their knowledge economies. Compared to the pre-training surveys, immediate post-training results significantly improved the candidates’ self-esteem and personal and career expectations. The responses showed marked differences in the candidates’ ability to craft clear, succinct, and impactful messages centered on their specific audiences. Following training, the attendees also formed communities of practice (CoPs) to exchange ideas, network, support, and encourage each other through shared success stories and problem-solving. The CoP knowledge platform opened avenues to further learning and leadership events for these young STEM professionals organized by WePOWER and its network partners in South Asia.

The one-year post-training survey feedback from participants showed that the program significantly enhanced their performance as young women STEM professionals aiding knowledge transfers (from 49% to 76%). For most trainees, the needle had moved toward leadership through placements in advanced education and jobs.  This social development endeavor aligns with Investing in People —through education, jobs, and skills to help develop human capital - a key driver of economic growth and ending extreme poverty, thereby creating more inclusive societies

For us at the Bank, participants’ positive testimonials on their forward strides, career growth, and confidence levels are only encouraging first steps. This women-first STEMCOM pilot training in Pakistan and India is a “push in the right direction.”  These women empowered themselves by creating a successful personal brand to define and position themselves with conviction as STEM professionals eager to contribute to their societies. Evidence-based, tailored social interventions such as this will realize their full potential only when their implementation is scaled up region-wide and across continents.


Priya Chopra

Communications Associate

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