Dear ladies and gentlemen, honourable panellists - good afternoon!

I am very happy to contribute today to the launch of the equality platform for the energy sector – having worked for years in this field, I have no doubt it’s badly needed.

Equality has many facets: people can be discriminated against because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age and many other reasons. It is of course exceedingly harmful: not only for the people in question, who are unfairly treated, but to the society as a whole.

If people are not flourishing and fulfilling their potential because of the unfounded biases and stereotypes others have about them, it will hold everybody back. Our overall wellbeing will suffer and our economic development will be hampered.

Discrimination based on gender is one of the most common forms of discrimination, something many of us are facing every day. So let me use this example of inequality to illustrate what we are up against.

In her book ‘Invisible Women’ Caroline Criado Perez talks about the gender data gap. What she means by this is that we simply know much less about women than we do about men and that lack of knowledge leads to discrimination – even when we don’t intend this to happen. This is a point that is easy to extend to other groups who face prejudice or intolerance.

We have a bad habit of ignoring women as we gather data, test things or design policies. As a result, car accidents are much more dangerous for women because the safety features are usually tested only with ‘male’ crash-test-dummies. Medications don’t often work well on women, because they are severely underrepresented in trials and sometimes women die, because doctors don’t know that a heart attack can look completely different, depending on gender.

Or let’s take another example from our own sector: many clean cooking initiatives in developing countries failed because nobody bothered to ask women how they actually use the stoves and why the machines that worked well in the lab aren’t sometimes suitable for real life. And cooking with a polluting stove can be as dangerous as unsafe cars.

This is a challenge from beyond our borders, but also in Europe, we have little data about women and energy. Even the basic facts regarding how many women there are in the sector and what kind of work they do can be hard to come by.

So we decided to do something to improve the situation and commissioned a study on the employment of men and women in the energy sector. Unfortunately, what the results show isn’t particularly encouraging.

In 2019, only 23% of all the workforce in the energy sector in Europe were women. There has been some progress since 2008, but very little – the share of women back then was 20%.

There are geographical and sectoral differences, with Western and Northern Europe doing better than other parts of the union and the electricity sector beating coal and gas.

The picture is less bleak in the public sector: 44% of the people working in the EU energy ministries are women. However, once we look at the ministerial level, the share of women is only 25%.

It would be great to have more information about where these differences come from and what women themselves see as holding them back. And we will continue to gather that information. But if we wait to have the perfect data before we do anything, we risk never taking real action.

Many factors that make women’s careers in energy difficult are of course not only relevant in our sector. To make progress, we need the entire society to change: we must fight stereotypes, eliminate the pay gap, share work at home fairly and support women on all fronts to fulfil their potential.

Here, broader policies like the EU’s gender equality strategy and directives to ensure equal pay and work-life balance have an important role to play. Strengthening equality and inclusion is a priority for the EU and the Commission and I know that President von der Leyen and Commissioner Dalli will continue to push this agenda further – not only for gender, but all aspects of equality.

But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do anything specific within the energy sector: we have our particular challenges and solutions that we must work on.

I am therefore especially pleased to launch the Commission’s first Equality Platform for the energy sector here today. It is designed to take action against inequality in all its forms.

This Platform is meant for all stakeholders in the energy sector, including Member States’ authorities, European and international organisations, companies, NGOs, academia and so on.

What we want to create is a network of stakeholders committed to achieving equality and inclusion in their field. We want to strengthen and support their commitment and to give them a space to discuss and showcase innovative measures.

The platform will provide a forum for stakeholders to do exactly this: share initiatives, strategies and new ideas, which would make workplaces in the energy sector more welcoming to everyone and that could inspire others to follow suit.

What I particularly like about this initiative is that to become a member, you have to commit to concrete actions. It is not enough to say that equality is important, you have to prove that you mean it by setting out the steps you are taking or planning to take.

The application process to join the Platform is now officially open and I hope to see great interest in this across the board, from small SMEs to leading renewables companies to respected academic institutions. I know that many organisations have already expressed their wish to join and I’m sure their numbers will grow.

I am truly proud of the Equality Network in DG Energy who have gone well above and beyond what is said in their job descriptions and made this happen. A sincere thank you to the whole team!

And to give credit where credit is due, I also want to recognise DG MOVE’s Women in Transport Platform that inspired the initiative we are launching today.

I wish the brand new platform every success and I’m looking forward to the panel discussion.

Thank you for your attention!