In Serbia, the political and business leadership recognizes this fact and, as such, aims to increase the gender diversity of the country’s workforce. The gender gap in Serbia’s labor force participation is smaller than the average for upper middle-income countries—yet women still only occupy about one-third of senior and middle manager positions. This situation should change if the country is to achieve more inclusive economic growth.
The Gender Gap in Serbia’s Energy and Mining Sectors
According to 2016 data from the World Economic Forum, women accounted for just 19% of all employees in the energy sector worldwide. In Europe and Central Asia, women’s share of employment in the mining and energy sectors ranged from just 9% in Türkiye to 26% in Germany, with most countries in the region falling between 18% and 23%.
A recent World Bank study analyzes the gender gap in Serbia’s energy and mining sectors. Based on a survey carried out in 2021 among 14 energy and mining companies employing about 70% of the sectors’ workforce, this report is the first comprehensive study of women’s participation in these sectors. The results of the study indicate that, compared to men, women are underrepresented among leadership roles, accounting for only 21% of middle managers, 17% of senior managers, and 16% of members of boards of directors. Women who do work in the sectors are largely concentrated in office-based roles, occupying 51% of jobs in fields related to business and administration. And women account for just 12% of the technical and operational workforce, usually a steppingstone on the path to senior managerial positions.
Looking at more disaggregated data, both worldwide and in Europe and Central Asia, national electricity and gas supply subsectors tend to be more open to women—whose participation ranges between 20% and 25% of the workforce—compared with mining subsectors, where just 13% to 18% of the workforce are women. In Serbia, the female share of employment in coal mining companies is about 16%. Another subsector where women are greatly underrepresented in Serbia is renewable energy, where 16% of the workforce are women.
The study also reveals opportunities for increasing women’s participation in the energy and mining sectors. Over a third of students of engineering programs in tertiary education (39%), and a third of students of geology, mining, and metallurgy in upper secondary education (34%) are women, which suggests that there is a substantial pool of female candidates for energy and mining companies. Importantly, both male and female employees of the companies surveyed report having a high level of satisfaction with their jobs.
Closing this gender gap is critical for Serbia. Energy and mining are a priority for the government: in 2020, these sectors made up around 5% of Serbia’s GDP, a share that could increase significantly over the next decade depending on the realization of planned investments. But despite this growth potential, Serbia’s energy and mining companies face complex business challenges, including moving toward renewable energy sources and embracing new disruptive technologies.
To survive and thrive, these firms should make full use of all the talent available to them. Hiring and retaining more women can help ease labor shortages as the sectors develop and grow, while more women entering these industries will result in a larger pool of highly qualified candidates for recruitment.
Analysis conducted by the Anglo-Australian mining firm BHP Billiton found that gender diversity allows companies to improve team performance and stimulate high levels of innovation, as homogenous groups tend to be susceptible to bias and ‘group think.’
Young female engineers in Serbia maintain that women who want to pursue studies and employment in the energy and mining sectors face significant obstacles, including societal stigmas and family expectations that try to steer them elsewhere.
The World Bank study offers recommendations for both policymakers and the private sector on how to work towards enhancing gender diversity and inclusion in technical and leadership roles in these sectors.
- To attract more female talent, policymakers can collaborate with educational institutions and the private sector to conduct awareness campaigns on available opportunities and career paths for girls and women. They can also develop sectoral guidelines to help companies create more inclusive workplaces and introduce a code of conduct to prevent sexual harassment.
- Policymakers can also work with employers to reduce gender-specific barriers to entry, such as family and childcare responsibilities, by introducing flexible working arrangements and encouraging men to share in those responsibilities.
The Private Sector
- Energy and mining companies can strengthen their outreach to women by providing scholarships and internships targeted at them, particularly in technical roles. Companies can adopt measures to support women’s professional development and build the pipeline of female talent by introducing dedicated leadership and mentoring programs.
- Internal professional associations can also provide networking opportunities and act as consultative bodies within companies and at the sectoral level. Furthermore, companies can create a zero-tolerance environment for discrimination and gender-based violence and establish gender-sensitive mechanisms for female workers to lodge grievances and seek support.