Energy, Mining, and Infrastructure

Women play critical roles in transforming the energy, mining, and infrastructure sectors in their roles as entrepreneurs, innovators, and decision-makers.

Sector Overview

A lack of access to energy can lock women and girls into poverty and affect all areas of their lives. A shortage of women’s leadership in the clean energy sector may undermine low-emission development goals. Women’s empowerment in artisanal and small-scale mining can contribute to poverty alleviation, national revenue generation, and foreign exchange earnings. Workforces tend to be male-dominated in these sectors, with limited access to opportunities for women in formal employment, especially in technical and leadership roles. Corruption risk is particularly high, so it would be useful to acknowledge that for women to provide input during planning and project implementation stages, advocates (and USAID) will need to address the underlying corruption that perpetuates the exclusion of citizens' voices and the capture of natural resources for private or political gain. 

Increasingly, institutions recognize the value of integrating women into the formal energy workforce. Yet, despite this recognition, women still make up only a small percentage of the workforce: 32 percent of the renewable energy sector’s workforce and 22 percent of jobholders in the energy sector overall. This is often because of restrictive, harmful gender norms and discriminatory policies and practices within energy, mining, and infrastructure organizations.


Energy Access and Electrification

Improved access to energy, including electricity, leads to improved income, health, and education outcomes and can reduce poverty. Safety for women and girls also improves when their homes and public spaces are well lit and they have access to clean cooking and heating solutions. Women and girls can spend hours per day collecting firewood for cooking and lighting needs and to earn extra income for the family; during these trips, they are vulnerable to GBV. Household air pollution from inefficient cooking and lighting causes premature death in more than four million people per year. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, as they are primarily responsible in many countries for cooking in the home.


Artisanal and small-scale mining techniques are used to extract a variety of minerals, including those for the clean-energy transition. Women are estimated to represent 30-50 percent of the global artisanal and small-scale mining workforce, but their needs, particularly the need for greater regulation and protection from unsafe working conditions, as well as more equitable pay structures, have been largely overlooked by governments and donors. In addition, large-scale mining is not gender neutral, as women and girls experience disproportionately negative impacts and are often excluded from decision-making around mining projects. In the context of both industrial and small-scale mining, as with many large-scale extractive practices, women human rights defenders and women in surrounding communities also face higher risks of violence, particularly GBV. Furthermore, insecure or unrecognized land and natural resource rights, especially among Indigenous women, may restrict economic benefit to and benefit from mining activities and the clean-energy economy more broadly. 


Access to safe infrastructure for all people is key to a population's health and overall socioeconomic well-being. Women and girls and gender diverse individuals often face limited access to infrastructure (including roads, waste management, public transportation, etc.) because of poor design or social norms and laws that restrict their equitable use of infrastructure.

Including women, gender-diverse individuals, and youth in the design and planning phase of programs is essential to ensure that projects meet the needs of all people. Programs can support gender economic equality by actively recruiting and training women and girls to take advantage of economic opportunities in traditionally male-dominated fields related to infrastructure projects. Finally, safeguards must be in place to prevent GBV and trafficking in persons that can emerge around infrastructure projects or from the poor design of public infrastructure.

Promising Approaches

  1. Promote transformative policies that advance gender equality in the energy sector through organizational change management approaches that address recruitment, human resources policies, and training and education.
  2. Create economic opportunities for women energy entrepreneurs, including through providing training, capacity building, and direct funding.
  3. Design programs and policies addressing GBV in energy, mining, and infrastructure sectors.
  4. Support behavioral change and communication campaigns that address harmful gender norms, advance gender equality, and increase acceptance of women’s participation in energy and mining sectors, especially through engagement with men and boys to champion women’s participation.
  5. Promote women’s secure access to and use and ownership of land and property, including mining rights.
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