A Recap of WCS Talks 2022 – Feel Inspired!
By Roma Notani, WCS Volunteer
Early this October, I spent a Friday afternoon with some incredibly talented, motivated and inspiring women at the Women in Cleantech and Sustainability’s annual flagship event WCS Talks 2022. WCS Talks is a TED-style event held this year at the Plug and Play campus and featured presentations from women who are leaders and industry experts.
The event was held in person after two years of going virtual due to the pandemic. The joy of meeting colleagues and friends again was reflected in the laughter and chatter. Amidst this enthusiasm, I witnessed doors opening, conversations brewing, ideas being exchanged and connections being made.
The event started with a powerful address from Lisa Ann Pinkerton, founder of the organization. She talked about the importance of cultivating our power and showing up as leaders. “The world rewards initiators and creators,” she said and emphasized that we need to leverage our power and influence to uplift women around us just as we benefit from those who came before us.
Lisa Ann’s sentiments were echoed by Mubeen Ali, Senior Manager of Manufacturing Engineering Integration at First Solar. During her talk- “Shaping A Responsible Green Community”, Mubeen highlighted the need to go past the problem statement and be part of the solution. Engagement from individuals encourages community engagement that can set an example for generations to come.
Khadija Stewart, Founder at Ecovybz Environmental Creatives, called attention to the necessity for youth activism, underlining the need for individual contribution. During her talk titled “Youth Activism on an Unstable Planet“, she walked the audience through her journey into climate activism from a graduate of Environmental and Natural Resource Management. She also alluded to her struggles with imposter syndrome as she was trying to create her blog and podcast, a common issue most women grapple with. Her suggestion was not to get bogged down by these issues and to understand the importance of speaking up. There are so many ways to do that, through art, music, writing, movies, etcetera. The means do not matter as long as we act as the agents of change.
While we talk about the importance of individual impact, it becomes increasingly important to understand how we can become impactful individuals. Keally DeWitt, VP of Marketing & Public Policy at GAF Energy answered that with her talk “We make the way by Walking”. To start with, we need to find our “lone star”, our motivating force. Then we need to find the right mentor who can propel us in the right direction. Her last advice is to find our breath and be in the moment, identifying what is the most important at the moment. This helps us take a step back and jump back right as we make our way to our “lone star”.
Keally’s wonderful talk was complemented by Nneka Kibuule‘s talk “Balancing Personal Resilience and Planetary Sustainability”. While Keally’s talk highlighted how we can create our path, Nneka talked about how we can keep on that path and avoid burnout. Nneka is the Senior Vice President at Aligned Climate Capital and Founder of GreenTech Noir. Nneka highlighted the need to simplify things and establish measurable goals. She also talked about the need for balance by reassessing our processes and testing. She closed by saying, “Balance is really finding a place where you feel comfortable to stop, start, jump back in and do it all over again.” leaving the listeners with this food for thought.
During the event we also heard from subject matter experts on the area of their expertise. Natalie Aldrich, Climate Tech Investor at Plug and Play Ventures talked about “A Diverse and Decarbonized Energy Mix“. She highlighted the need for streamlined investments in climate tech while talking about her own experience and difficulties she encountered to get the necessary investments in legacy technologies. Her talk took a hopeful note as she highlighted the growth of renewable technologies in the energy mix and budding start-ups in the industry tackling different issues in innovative ways.
Olga Terets, Corporate Associate at Morrison Foerster talked about “The ABC’s of PBC’s”. During her talk, she stressed the growing need for businesses to not just focus on economics but also on the environmental and social impact of their investments which will prove critical to a firm’s success. She walked us through different corporate forms and the history of Public Benefit Corporations (PBCs). It was extremely interesting and relevant as we hear about companies like Patagonia taking historic steps to increase their ESG investments.
Lastly, we heard from Joanna Rogers, Vice President of Marketing at Terrasmart. Her talk was titled “Powering Business Transformation Through your Brand“. Joanna highlights that a brand is not just about the name or logo but also about its promises and its’ ‘why’ to stakeholders. She told the listeners the story of Gibraltar Industries, Terrasmart’s parent company as it went through changes by acquiring two competing solar firms. She underlined the need for an open, honest, and probably tough conversation to help a firm transition through changes while keeping the promises to all stakeholders including the employees.
After learning about the industry and the motivating journeys of the speakers, the event concluded with a networking session, where we shared our own stories, thoughts, and ideas with each other. I left the building premises feeling inspired and honestly pretty full after indulging in some delicious cupcakes.
I would highly recommend that anyone interested in the Cleantech and Sustainability industry to be part of WCS as a volunteer, sponsor, speaker, or cheerleader as the organization carries on its mission to support women to advance in their careers and make a positive impact on the environment.