Engendering Utilities: Strengthening Sectors and Empowering Women Worldwide

Tetra Tech is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help energy and water utilities around the world advance gender equality while meeting their core business goals.

While women represent half of the world’s potential workforce, they are underrepresented in the global economy, particularly in male-dominated sectors like energy and water. In the global energy sector, for example, women account for only 5 percent of executive board membership and 14 percent of senior management positions. Increasing women’s participation in these sectors can boost women’s economic empowerment and spark social development.

Tetra Tech is advancing opportunities for women in the energy and water sectors through Engendering Utilities, a USAID program. Engendering Utilities partners directly with utility companies in developing countries to employ gender equity interventions and strengthen business operations at the same time.

Launched in 2015, Engendering Utilities began working with seven energy utilities from five countries. With support from Engendering Utilities, these companies applied tailored interventions designed to address their gender equality goals, and all utilities succeeded in increasing the number of female employees, drafting or adopting Equal Employment Opportunity statements, gathering sex-disaggregated employment and employee satisfaction data for use in decision-making, and instituting new corporate policies to address gender equity.

Tetra Tech was selected to implement Phase 2 of Engendering Utilities in 2018 as part of USAID’s Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SURE) project. In 2019, Tetra Tech helped USAID expand the program by adding nine new utility partners from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. This expansion followed Tetra Tech’s revamp of the utility selection and onboarding processes to ensure more robust buy-in from utility leadership.

Tetra Tech bolstered the customized coaching components of the program by deploying additional experts to work directly with each utility. Our team is now collaborating with USAID and the utilities to design tailored interventions that increase gender equality, create leadership opportunities for women, and develop talent through capacity building. Utilities receive coaching in such subjects as skills mapping, developing key performance indicators, and creating an actionable gender strategy.

Two to three employees from each utility also participate in Engendering Utilities’ Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program, where they receive expert in-person and virtual coaching for up to two years. This program, developed and implemented in partnership with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, helps utilities conduct gender gap analyses, create gender action plans, design gender equity interventions, and institute organizational change strategies.

Throughout the program, partner utilities receive tools and resources outlining global best practices, including a comprehensive gender equity HR guide developed by Tetra Tech and USAID that follows the employee life cycle and outlines approaches to achieve gender equality during each stage.

One partner utility, Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) in Mozambique, is establishing a gender project to spearhead the interventions identified through its participation in Engendering Utilities. EDM’s team managers, who come from all levels of the company, will develop and analyze the utility’s gender strategy, propose interventions and action plans, and help their colleagues in other departments implement the actions proposed.

Another partner, Eko Electricity Distribution Company in Nigeria, leveraged its participation in the program to hire its first female line workers, a move that will help increase opportunities for women in Nigeria’s traditionally male-dominated energy sector.

As a result of its unique approach and demonstrated impact, Engendering Utilities was identified as a key contributor to the U.S. Government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), which aims to reach 50 million women by 2025 through innovative and effective programs.

Until now, the focus of Engendering Utilities was squarely on the energy sector. However, in 2019 USAID moved to expand the program into other sectors, including water. Tetra Tech will lead this expansion through USAID’s Workplace Advancement for Gender Equality project, which seeks to strengthen sustainable urban service delivery while creating tangible economic opportunities for women. As it expands to new sectors, the program is also scaling up once again, and Tetra Tech will help USAID add as many as 12 more utility partners by the end of 2019.