Written by Mouna Essa-Egh – Vice President Middle East Africa, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric.

Although data centers remain at the heart of an increasingly digital world, the sector has also historically always been incredibly energy-hungry. In fact, it is incumbent upon data center owners and operators — whose industry is responsible for 1-2% of global energy use — to drive greener, more sustainable, and efficient IT operations across sectors.

Sustainability is an opportunity for all

In addition to being a clear objective of the 2030 Agenda globally for the UN, gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls serve as a catalyst for sustainable development across dimensions – from ending poverty to protecting the planet.

In this industry, creating sustainable and green data centers is a top priority. However, without diversity and representation of women in the workforce, meeting the growing demands of digital lifestyles and green data centers will undoubtedly be a more daunting task.

A disproportionate industry

Unfortunately, less than 10% of the workforce in the data center industry are women and almost one in four companies have no women in their system design or operations.

The urgent need to create more opportunities for women in data centers starts with exposure and interest at grassroots level – building excitement in the younger generation for a job in tech. For example, according to World Education Services, only 46% of girls aged 11-14 seem to consider a career in engineering, compared to 70% boys. What’s worrying how this drops even further for girls aged 16-18 to only 25%.

Beyond education, a study conducted by WIRED in the MENA showed that even though 90% of women would recommend a role in tech to family and friends, 40% have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. The study unfortunately concluded that significant obstacles remain with many women reporting discrimination in pay and position, and the dominance of gender stereotypes.

The consequence of a lack of diversity is inherently limiting the pool of talent and potential employees that can bring unique skills to the table.

Moving forward

It is essential to start building and investing in the data center workforce of the future. Diversity and inclusion are central to establishing a strong, resilient, and adaptable group of skilled professionals that can take the world of data centers to newer, greener lengths. And we are on the way!

UNESCO’s recent report, Cracking the Code: Girls’ and Women’s Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), 57% of graduates in STEM across the Arab world are women, and in the UAE 61% of university STEM graduates are female.

Now is the time for leaders to work on fostering diversity and welcoming new talent to the data center sector. There is still a long way to go, a lot of time and effort will be needed, but the rewards will be significant for everyone involved.

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