Advancements in energy technology will play a major role in improving public health, safety, and economic growth in the developing world. But there’s a less obvious outcome that could result from upgrades to the global power grid: positive strides toward gender equality.
Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the University of Texas Energy Poll, and Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at UT Austin, recently spotlighted this issue in an article they contributed to Slate. The two experts described how energy advancements could “elevate the status of women around the world” by creating opportunities to escape a cycle of poverty rooted in inefficient and unsafe manual labor.
Access to a reliable electric grid could power machines and equipment to carry out some of the labor-intensive tasks traditionally undertaken by women in developing nations, such as tending to crops, carrying water, and cooking over poorly designed indoor stoves.
These duties have historically prevented many women from pursuing a formal education or seeking full-time employment, but that could change if those burdens are eased. Kirshenbaum and Webber write:
“More women in the poorest nations would be able to earn income to alleviate poverty, improve living conditions, and acquire cleaner and more reliable energy services. Women would thus have more choices while retaining the role as energy decision-makers and gaining even greater access to modern technologies. Energy in the developing world would become more efficient and less taxing on human health.”
Read the full article for a historical perspective of how energy advancements helped spark progress toward gender equality here in America, as well as information about some collaborative projects that are already underway around the globe.