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Women power 'to get the work done' in energy transition

More women engineers and tradies, and different skills to solve new problems, will be needed to rapidly decarbonise the economy, an energy ambassador says.

Anna Collyer, chair of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), said women excel at the skills Australia needs to build a new energy system.

Opportunities will only grow for the highly valuable "power skills" that women tend to bring when tackling challenges, she told the Women in Energy and Climate Symposium at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

But women account for less than 40 per cent of the clean energy workforce and closer to 20 per cent across the whole sector, making energy the third most male-dominated industry in Australia after mining and construction.

"With the scale of the build ahead of us, it can only help to add more women in traditional technical roles - engineering and the trades - otherwise we simply won't have enough people to get the work done," Ms Collyer said.

Thousands of jobs in research, development, investment and regulation will need to be filled.

And different skills are needed to work with communities to find space for 10,000 kilometres of new poles and wires or invent new business to support more rooftop solar, she said.

Women will also be making important decisions about household energy use to get the most out of a growing virtual power plant of solar panels, electric cars and appliances across the country.

Recently appointed as one of two Australian ambassadors to the global Equality in Energy Transitions Initiative, Ms Collyer will support female students and professionals starting out in the sector over the next 12 months.

The industry needs to improve physical and psychological safety and change hiring and promotion practices to attract and retain women, she said.

Traditional disadvantages of pay and progression that women face as parents are another barrier, she said.

The AEMC has announced it will be plugging that gap by voluntarily paying superannuation throughout paid and unpaid parental leave.

Ms Collyer said Australia needs every available talent and every perspective applied to the energy sector to reach net zero by 2050.