Women making their mark in the renewable energy industry
There’s no doubt that the renewable energy industry has a long way to go to achieve gender diversity. Although women make up 48% of the global workforce, they account for only 32% of workers in the renewable energy industry, according to the International Energy Association (IEA). Even that compares favorably with the oil and gas sector, where the figure is a dismal 22%.
The energy industry has traditionally been known to be an old boys’ club and while the renewable sector is more progressive, women are still underrepresented. And yet, the fact is that companies with diverse boards have been shown to achieve greater profitability than similar companies without female board members.
Progress has been made in the last few years — a report by consultancy PwC for the POWERful Women initiative showed that as of April 2020, women held 21% of board seats at top UK energy companies, up from 16% in 2019 and just 13% in 2018. The number of female executive directors increased by two-thirds from 2019 and at 11 companies women occupied at least 30% of the executive board seats.
However, there’s more the industry can do to increase gender diversity at all levels, from employees to management to leaders and entrepreneurs. The tone is set at the top. The PwC report showed that 38% of UK energy companies had no women on their boards and 79% had no women on their executive boards.
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The renewable energy industry is poised for rapid growth in the coming years. Countries around the world press on with the transition away from fossil fuels to meet their climate change goals and increase their energy access. This will drive the creation of new skilled jobs and create new opportunities for workers to bring their families out of poverty. If women are left behind it will have implications for social development as well as limit the sector’s access to talent.
Innovation is at the heart of the renewable industry and a lack of diversity stifles innovation. It is also intertwined with issues of sustainable development. The growth of solar energy, for example, contributes to providing access to reliable clean energy, which is in turn vital for women’s empowerment and the eradication of poverty. That will be achieved through advancements in education, water supply, quality healthcare, and access to work, which are embodied in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Why are there so few women working in the renewable industry today, and even fewer in senior positions?
Perceptions of appropriate gender roles driven by societal norms
Lack of flexibility in work schedules
Unfavorable workplace practices
Lack of training and mentoring opportunities
Lack of childcare facilities
Women looking to develop their careers often find their progression is limited by an environment that does not provide the support and practical assistance they need to advance.
So how can the renewable sector do better and redress the balance?
There are several ways the industry can foster a more female-friendly working environment:
Promoting women to senior leadership positions to provide female role models
Making women more visible in management positions can show other women what career paths are possible for them. As the saying goes, “if you can see it, you can be it.” Investment in startups led by women along with funding for tailored training can help women to advance.
Creating inspiring networking opportunities to empower women leaders in the sector
Networking groups like Entrepreneurial Women in Renewable Energy (EWiRE) in the UK are working to make gender diversity a priority at all levels of the clean energy sector, by providing knowledge sharing and skills development. EWiRE aims to raise the profile of women working in the renewable sector, increase the representation of women in senior management positions and promote the sector to attract new talent.
What's good for the world and has the word 'renew' and 'able' in it? That's right: women. Don't worry, you will get it next time.
Encouraging women of any age into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers
The Women in STEM initiative aims to address the stereotypes surrounding women working in what were previously considered primarily male roles, and showcase the many opportunities women in those fields have today.
As part of its female empowerment initiative, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is working to improve the participation of girls and women in STEM careers, providing teacher training and educational content to help countries reduce the gender gap. Worldwide, women account for only 35% of STEM students in higher education, a UNESCO report found.
Offering supportive working environments for women
There are numerous steps companies can take to attract and retain female talent. These include:
Making changes to biased recruitment practices
Providing flexible working arrangements
Offering training and mentorship schemes
Implementing gender equity targets
Creating networking opportunities company-wide and within the wider industry.
Providing adequate and well-paid maternity leave along with childcare provisions are also key.
We couldn’t end this article without hearing from some of the inspiring women of RatedPower. Gender diversity is incredibly important to us and we are proud to have built a team driven by innovation, collaboration, and support.
"The levers needed to shape culture are under our control. The renewable energy industry offers diverse opportunities and challenges along the entire value chain, requiring different capacities and skillsets. Inclusion is a critical ingredient for business success, and for us, it’s not only a proven growth strategy, but it also offers a competitive advantage.”
“RatedPower has brought me the opportunity to grow professionally without limits, always listening and valuing my knowledge and opinions. This has helped me evolve beyond expectations. It’s encouraged me to inspire other colleagues in the sector to look for a work environment that will allow them to progress.”
“I had the chance, early on, to join a growing team with a strong woman as a leader. I am amazed by the influence of her role in the industry and in our hiring process. We are building a competitive team, with natural parity, and working towards gender equality. I cannot be more proud to be part of this.”
Looking to make your next move in the renewable energy sector at an inclusive and driven organization? Keep up to date with our career opportunities here.
What you should do now
Whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways we can help you grow your solar business and reduce LCOE of your PV plants.
- Get hands-on with a free RatedPower self-service guided tour. If you’d like to learn the ins and outs of how top photovoltaic software can help your engineering team, go ahead and request your free demo. One of our solar experts will understand your current design and engineering workflows, and then suggest practical tips on how to speed up them though the right tool.
- Let's get physical, physical! Learn the latest on renewable energy and PV in the second edition of Pulse, our annual get-together full of technical workshops, inspiring talks from energy leaders and tons of networking. Learn more.
- If you’d like to learn insights, ideas and inspiration for the low-carbon energy transition for free, go to our blog or visit our resources section, where you can download guides, templates and checklists solar successful pros use.
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