More than 180 participants, speakers, facilitators, coaches, recruiters and more came together on campus at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) on Friday 15 March for the second edition of Women Leading the Energy Transition.

Organised by Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations (ECWO) and 75inQ, the day-long conference emerged with one clear goal: that shared and inclusive leadership is a pre-requisite for a faster, fairer and more equal energy transition.

Referring to two reports that reveal that women make up between 18 and 22 per cent of the Dutch energy sector, 75inQ managing director Anouk Creusen opened the conference by unequivocally stating “we have a job to do”.

“We need all hands on deck”

“Women are one of the very underrepresented group in a task (the energy transition) that is massive,” said Cruesen. “When we talk about boardrooms the numbers go down – only eight percent of decision-making positions in the energy sector are represented by women. We need to go fast, we need to be inclusive, we need all hands on deck. That is the focus of today: how can we accelerate this energy transition by having more inclusive and shared leadership at the table?”

Inclusion is about making room for all types of people, regardless of gender identity, but also age, and the different leadership styles they offer, added Dorothy Grandia, ECWO’s associate director of programming, who opened the conference with Creusen. “It is now time to integrate inclusion into the strategy of organisations because that is going to lead to a faster, more fair, more equitable and more stable energy transition.”

Move away from business-as-usual

This point was amplified by Lilianne Ploumen who brought her experience as a feminist, activist and initiator of SheDecides  as well as the former leader of the Dutch Labour Party and minister for foreign trade and development co-operation, to her thought-provoking and action-orientated opening keynote.

Ploumen emphasised the urgent need to move away from business-as-usual, including through elements like quota legislation. Touching on the just released report by the Netherlands Bureau of Economic Analysis (CPB) that shows that a women’s quota for supervisory boards of listed companies in the Netherlands is having an effect, she added “there are more than enough women who qualify for the position”. Describing the energy transition as a “phenomenal task” that comes with “a great urgency” Ploumen made the point that transition means change and change requires “us to stop doing things the way we always did them”.

Shared, inclusive and co-leadership

Ploumen’s point means moving away from leadership styles built around an individual who leads an organisation with others following to a new concept of leadership - namely that of shared, inclusive and co-leadership. “This style of leadership helps us to disburse responsibilities, it helps us to share authority, it’s about distributing resources strategically, making sure that resources are not amplifying the status quo but are really helping to change. It helps us to be collectively accountable to stakeholders and it makes us also less lonely at the top which is something we all crave, including men.”

The morning’s plenary session also included a panel with Tom Van Ginkel, Chief Sales Officer at Joulz  Ehssane Gounou, Director Zakelijk at Greenchoice; and Dyonne Rietveld, Country Chair and Managing Director Uniper Benelux. All three companies are in the middle of the energy transition and the panelists shared how they experience inclusion within their respective companies and where there are still opportunities for improvement.

Energy transition workshops

The afternoon programme saw participants take part in a range of workshops, including one on Preparing Supervisory Board Candidacy and others on topics including Leadership Skills to Drive the Energy Transition (presented by Renske Nouwens and Roos van Genuchten of Joulz), Finding Your Role in Making Social Innovation in Energy Transformation (presented by Tessa de Geus of DRIFTand Creating and Sharing Your Vision for the Energy Transition, facilitated by Associate Professor Sofya Isaakyan for RSM’s Energy Transition Institute. Coaching sessions aimed at helping people with the challenges that now lie ahead within the energy transition and company meets and greets were also part of the afternoon programme.

The day was closed by general manager at Greenchoice Coen de Ruiter, who once again emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion within an organisation for a successful company. He said that while Greenchoice ranks high in terms of workforce diversity, there was still a glass ceiling for women and the company is currently working hard to achieve more inclusion for women.


More information

Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations (ECWO) is committed to fostering inclusion. Our founding purpose in 2014 was to empower women and to create a level playing field by building communities for organisational change. Today, ECWO has expanded its perspective to embrace a wider vision of a world of inclusive prosperity. Our new mission is to create a sense of belonging for everyone within organisations through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), anchored in social safety. We strive for settings where everyone feels valued, respected and supported. We conduct research and produce evidence-led educational programmes, events, coaching, advocacy, and advisory services. We stay true to our roots, and we have evolved to recognise that achieving true inclusion and equity requires encompassing all, regardless of gender or identity.

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