As an active owner, Norfund continuously learns how we can best support our investees in promoting gender equality. Norfund therefore recently spoke to Mariam Melchior, Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Arnergy Solar Ltd, one of our portfolio companies in renewable energy.
Arnergy and Norfund
- Arnergy Solar Ltd is a Nigerian-owned provider of solar systems (a start-up) that has built solar home systems for the residential and commercial sectors.
- In 2019, Norfund invested 2 million USD through the Project Development and Risk Mitigation Facility (PDRMF) to support Arnergy in a transition to focus on the SME segment across Nigeria.
- Norfund is providing the C-Suite with Business Support to co-fund management training in 2020 and 2021.
Mariam Melchior has been with Arnergy for just over a year. She has a background in the energy sector and started her career in a global oil trading company based in London. We spoke with her about the obstacles facing women wanting to work in the renewable energy sector and Norfund’s role as investor.
The energy sector is traditionally male dominated, which is true even in Norfund’s clean energy portfolio. Despite this, Melchior believes that there is great potential for more diversity in the renewable energy sector, especially among young people. The key is being intentional.
When addressing how gender equality gaps can be overcome, Melchior highlights two important factors. The first is education, and importantly, equal access to education. However, even with equal access, there are challenges when entering the workforce – for example having a network. The second factor is female representation in a company, at all levels, together with mentorship from other women with a similar background. To overcome these obstacles, Melchior stresses the importance of buy-in at executive level, for example by using data and facts combined with passion for the sector and for change. Research shows that gender diversity brings both financial and non-financial value to a company.
‘Identify a business gender champion – a person who is passionate about it and can take the lead.’ – Mariam Melchior
Melchior also points to the fact that political decisions and the availability of childcare are vital to ensuring an environment in which equal opportunities can be achieved.
Gender Equality in Arnegy
Norfund as an Active Owner
The Norfund project team responsible for this investment indicates that, when addressing gender equality, it is important to reflect on what is possible given context and the company’s stage of development and capacity. For example, in Nigeria, diversity is more broadly defined to include all backgrounds.
At the time of investment, Arnergy was a start-up company which meant that Norfund was active and hands-on. One of the requirements Norfund and its co-investors set for this investment was to hire a VP HR and adopt an HR strategy to boost the human resource management in the company.
Norfund also had a say in the hiring of an external board member and CFO. Norfund actively compelled the company to hire a woman as external board member and required that female candidates be included in the hiring process of the CFO, conducted by an executive search firm and Marium Melchior was hired.
'Norfund should continue to do what you have done all along, continue to be intentional.' – Mariam Melchior