Georgetown McDonough and USAID’s Leadership Program Advances Gender Equality for Utility Companies Worldwide

Photo of program participants in the GEELP Program

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To support the recruitment, development, and retention of women in male-dominated utility industries, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to deliver an ongoing Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program (GEELP). GEELP is an extension of USAID’s broader Engendering Industries program, which helps 41 organizations across 27 countries implement tangible gender equality practices for women throughout the human resources life cycle. 

“Women are underrepresented at almost every level in the global workforce, especially in utility industries such as water and energy,” said Michael O’Leary, senior associate dean for Custom Executive Education at Georgetown McDonough. “This program helps companies implement strategies and tactics to leverage women’s potential in the workforce, while also showcasing the economic benefits that workplace equity can have on a company’s bottom line.”

The composition of the utility sector continues to be disproportionately male, despite growing evidence that demonstrates a correlation between gender diversity and higher levels of company performance and profitability. According to the International Labor Organization, the global labor participation rate for women is 27% lower than men, and wage discrepancies for similar work can reach up to 40%. These structural barriers, in turn, create limitations for both women’s advancement and company growth.

GEELP takes a select cohort of mid- to senior-level decision makers from USAID’s partner organizations through a 12-month curriculum. Between these sessions, participants take part in seven modules, consisting of both live and recorded sessions. The program culminates in a capstone project where participants present a strategic analysis and implementation plan with desired improvements for their respective companies. 

“The GEELP program blends academic research with practical application to help utility companies make the business case for gender equality in their respective organizations,” said Imke Simpson, assistant dean of Custom and Open Enrollment at Georgetown McDonough. “Upon completion of the program, participants gain an understanding of systemic gender barriers within the context of an academic framework, which gives them real strategies that they can use to effect change within their organization.”

Participants learn from Georgetown McDonough faculty with expertise in gendered leadership, change management, and human resources management. They also are assigned a gender equality coach to help companies implement the strategies and concepts outlined during the GEELP sessions. The course modules analyze the entire human resources employee lifecycle, with topics including best practices in gender-equitable hiring, communication, leadership, compliance and reporting, salary and benefits equity, employee development, risk management, and succession planning.

“This program will enable us to translate our gender equality vision into an action plan that will positively impact people at our company,” said Assa Filipe Fumo, program graduate and learning and development department manager at power utility EDM in Mozambique. “We will now have an integrated, consistent, and strategic approach to deal with the gender equality challenges we are facing.”

Since its launch, GEELP has taught over 120 employees representing utility companies in 27 countries, including Georgia, Jordan, Kenya, Macedonia, Mozambique, and Nigeria, among others. The participating organizations have witnessed significant strides in gender-equitable interventions and opportunities for women. 

According to USAID, the 10 utilities in the recently graduated cohort implemented more than 190 gender equality activities; drafted, reviewed, and implemented 25 policies; hired more than 400 women and promoted 370 into technical and leadership positions; accepted 120 young women into internship and trainee programs; trained 3,700 women on technical and soft skills to support career advancement; and trained 730 men and women on gender equality issues. Many partner organizations are able to directly attribute these changes to improved retention, revenue, and brand reputation. 

“GEELP is empowering employees and leaders to advance gender equity in the workplace — this type of customized, engendered training is critical for companies across all industries. We look forward to partnering with future organizations to help advance opportunities for women in a variety of male-dominated sectors,” said O’Leary. 

GEELP is one of several women leadership and gender equity programs offered by Georgetown McDonough’s Custom Executive Education program. In 2020-2021, Georgetown McDonough trained 2,337 executives in 74 different custom programs on course topics such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, women empowerment, leadership development, innovation, and change management. Georgetown also announced its third cohort of the Qiyadat-Global Women’s Leadership Program, which equips emerging female leaders with the strategic leadership skills necessary to succeed in a global business environment.

To learn more about Georgetown McDonough Custom Executive Education programs, visit msb.georgetown.edu/custom-executive-education.