MANILA, PHILIPPINES (20 November 2019) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting at its Manila headquarters the second in a series of partnership forums for a new professional network founded by the World Bank to promote more female practitioners in South Asia’s energy and power sector.
The Women in Power Sector Professional Network in South Asia (WePOWER) aims to support participation of women in energy projects and institutions, as well as promote more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
The 2nd WePOWER Partnership Forum in Manila that opened today brings together about 80 participants representing government agencies, public and private sector utilities, academia, and civil society organizations from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as other countries.
The forum is co-organized by ADB’s South Asia Department and the World Bank’s South Asia Energy and Social Development Units and Energy Sector Management Assistance Program. The World Bank has agreed to host the WePOWER Secretariat for an initial four years.
Over two days, they will share WePOWER’s Charter; commitments and accomplishments of strategic and institutional partners; and technical sessions on how to enhance STEM education as well as recruitment, development, and retention of women in South Asian utilities.
“Energy access and infrastructure development are crucial for economic development of South Asia, yet women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are very limited,” said ADB Vice-President Mr. Shixin Chen at the forum opening today. “The WePOWER initiative consolidates—at its core—a range of critical global development commitments and values which, if further cemented and institutionalized, could be exemplary and replicated across other sectors.”
While women are closing gender gaps in education, in engineering programs, they represent less than 25% of workforce in utilities in South Asia—mostly in middle-to-lower level non-technical administrative positions and less than 21% in technical positions.
WePOWER is envisaged to become a vibrant and self-sustaining professional network backed by strategic partners that can provide technical and financial support. Its work program will focus on five strategic areas—STEM education, recruitment, development, retention, and policy and analysis. WePOWER will provide capacity building support, networking, and mentorship for women engineers for career advancement, research to reform policies and practices, exposure to technology, recruiting opportunities, and access to information and conferences.
Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is at the core of ADB’s Strategy 2030. Its corporate target is 75% of the number of committed sovereign and nonsovereign operations at entry will support proactive gender-inclusive design elements and 55% of them will be gender mainstreamed by 2030.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.