Inspiration

Women find success in clean energy sector

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Clean energy is changing the world, including the lives of women who pursue careers in the power sector. From research and green energy project development to legal policy, green investments, and engineering, there are a variety of career options in the clean energy sector that are waiting to be filled by talented female professionals. Women’s voices and perspectives are essential to the future of climate change prevention as they both consume energy products and develop new technologies that can be used around the world.

Women in the Green Energy Industry

The number of women working in clean energy jobs is higher than the number of women working in any other energy sector, but there is still a significant gender gap in employment statistics. Worldwide, women are highly conscious energy consumers, which should lead to greater representation as clean energy producers as well. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go in terms of gender equality. Women occupy only 4 percent of positions on the World Energy Council, according to the Environment and Gender Index.

Despite the underrepresentation of women in the clean industry sector, companies like Solar Sister in Africa are helping eradicate energy poverty while promoting women-led businesses. Co-founded by Katherine Lucey and Neha Misra, Solar Sister supports more than 1200 women entrepreneurs in rural communities. Solar Sister’s woman-run direct sales network distributes clean energy technology such as solar lights, mobile phone chargers and clean cook stoves. One entrepreneur, Levina, was able to grow her business by purchasing a single solar lamp to use as a sustainable energy source and the investment has allowed her to purchase even more lights as the demand for her business increases.

Danielle Fong, another prominent female voice in the clean tech sector, calls herself “the girl from the future” and is the co-founder and chief scientist of LightSail Energy. “The worlds largest emerging economies are not
China, India, Brazil and Russia. They are the nations of women coming economically into their own,” she has said. According to Fong, her company’s aim “is to produce the world’s cleanest and most economical energy-storage system” through a technology that uses compressed air to store energy from the existing power grid.

ComEd, one of America’s largest utilities, is now powered by a woman for the first time in history. Anne Pramaggiore took the reins as President and CEO in 2012. After earning a law degree from DePaul University School of Law, she went on to work for ComEd as an attorney with an expertise in deregulation. Her tenure at the company has served to promote gender equality in Energy and STEM fields across the Midwest. ComEd’s Female Founder Prize at the annual Clean Energy Trust Challenge awarded DesignFlux Technologies(a female-led energy storage company) $20k in 2015.

Theresa Jester is a solar industry veteran who entered the field as an engineer at a time when few women were encouraged to do so. As CEO and chairman of Silicor Materials, she is an industry leader in the production of affordable solar silicon. She has also been a prominent advocate for women to enter competitive STEM fields and make their voices heard.

The Gender Imbalance

Gender equality in the clean energy industry is essential in both developed and emerging world economies. Only 28 percent of environmental scientists are female and only 20 percent of renewable energy workforce employees are women. This inequality is troubling for many reasons, not the least of which is that women are equal energy consumers and yet their voices are not heard in the decision-making process. Another reason is that companies with female representation perform better. In fact, Fortune 500 companies with women on their boards yielded higher net income than those without female representation.

Moving forward, the energy industry can encourage women to enter the clean energy sector through recognition and awards such as the Women in Solar Energy Award, which was given to Theresa Jester in 2015. Such efforts show appreciation for the work female engineers, scientists and CEOs put into developing new clean energy technologies and encourage other women to pursue an education in similar fields. Raising awareness about the many job opportunities available to women in the clean energy sector is key to recruiting more women into the field.

The Future of Green Energy is Female

Renewable energy created jobs for 8.1 million people around the world in 2015 alone. The use of renewable energies has increased an impressive 5 percent since 2013 and the use of renewable electricity has increased 39 percent since 2010. These figures demonstrate the growth of the clean energy industry and illustrate the importance of access for women who have an interest in this important field. Women’s perspectives are necessary in order for the energy industry to continue to grow and change with the demands of the world.

About Spencer B

Spencer B is a writer and researcher based in Chicago, IL. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2011 with a degree in Chemistry and will be attending DePaul University this fall to participate in a master’s program. He primarily covers topics at the intersection of environmentalism and entrepreneurship.

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