Assessing the status of women in geothermal development: A comparative study of Iceland and Kenya

Málfríður Ómarsdóttir, Mutia Thecla, and Malimo Sylvia
Geothermal Development Company


The world is seeking an acceleration of geothermal energy development. To achieve this massive deployment, increased work force capacity is required. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to incorporate both men and women professionals in the field to achieve sustainable geothermal development. Specific examples from Iceland and Kenya show that there are fewer women employees than men supporting the urgent deployment of geothermal resources in projects indicating an existing gender gap. In this paper the reasons why this gender gap exists in the sector are discussed and if there is a notable difference between a developed country (Iceland) with a high gender equality rating and a developing one (Kenya) with a low gender equality rating. Globally, science and engineering fields have been predominately male-dominated sectors, even in countries such as Iceland with the world’s highest gender equality rating for the last decade. The following key research questions guide the study: What are the reasons why geothermal science and engineering is male dominated? Is there a gender imbalance in the geothermal sector and if so, why? What about the women already working within the sector, does their gender affect or even limit their careers, and if so, to what extent? What aspects of their gender affects their career? Is there a difference of aforementioned affects or reasons between the two countries? An extensive comparison survey study was made collecting first-hand information from both male and female employees at several geothermal companies as well as university students in Kenya and Iceland. Questionnaires were used to collect data from a total of 120 male and female employees i.e. 60 employees per country and around 100 students. The main conclusions that can be drawn from the surveys are that gender seems to have an effect in both countries up to a certain extent. When asked if gender related factors had affected their career progressions in opportunities within the sector, the difference between the countries was not that notable but quite notable between the genders as women felt these had had more of an impact in their careers than the men thought. When asked if they consider their gender has affected their career progression, 56% of the women in Kenya feel it had, compared to surprisingly high 42% of the women in Iceland, the number one gender equality country in the world 10 years in a row. In Kenya, 19% of the men considered their gender had affected their career progression compared to a much lower 5,7% in Iceland. Questionnaires were also sent to students in both countries to try to shed a light on some of the reasons why more women are not entering the geothermal field. In both countries, over 60% considered existing specific gender related opportunities and challenges in the geothermal sector. Generally, the students were positive towards the sector with some gender limiting considerations nonetheless. This paper assesses the current status of gender mainstreaming in the geothermal sector in Kenya and Iceland.
Keywords: Gender equality, geothermal development, Kenya, Iceland

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