By Elizabeth Galusha
Women in Solar Energy (WISE) hosted a#NationWISE Multi-City Roundtable in 14 cities on February 24, 2015. The mission of WISE is to advance women in all aspects of the solar energy industry. Currently, women account for 21.6% of the workforce in the solar industry, according to the 2014 Solar Foundation annual job census.
The objective of the national roundtable was to help WISE develop an action to present to the solar industry. The action will be based on ways to increase diversity in the workforce, while promoting better business practices.
In San Francisco, our local #NationWISE panel was composed of four highly talented women sharing their journey, passion, and involvement in the solar energy industry.
- Jeanine Cotter, President and CEO of Luminalt
- Rosana Francescato, Director of Communications at Domino
- Kirstin Hoefer, Senior VP, Customer Solutions at Clean Power Finance
- Paula Mints, Founder and Chief Market Research Analyst of SPV Market Research
Pamela Cargill, Principal of Chaolysti, moderated the panel, and the event was co-hosted by Page Crahan of New Home Solar Power. Approximately 50 people attended the roundtable, including a few men.
The panelists also provided some active words of advice to get more women into the industry. Some highlights: Just go for it! Do something bold and foolish. Don’t talk yourself out of it – more women need to apply for solar jobs. Parenthood is not a limitation. Be persistent. Volunteer and network to get into the solar industry. Seek out great managers and great teams that will support your growth and life balance, and do the same for others. Be true to yourself.
After the panelists shared their industry wisdom, the attendees broke into groups to brainstorm solutions to two questions presented by WISE. First, Why is it that women make up only about 20% of the solar industry, even though we represent 50% of the population? And second, What policies would you like to see in place to help recruit and retain women in solar?
The questions sparked some great discussion at the San Francisco #NationWISE roundtable, with the feedback including:
- A perception or bias exists that the solar industry is construction- and engineering-heavy – thus, women are less likely to apply to positions.
- A STEM background is not needed to get into the solar industry; however, the ability to use transferable skills is also not transparent to potential applicants.
- It is possible that some women are more risk adverse to enter a career in a “startup” environment; the solar industry is young and growing fast.
- Women currently do have entry-level jobs in the solar industry; however, many leave the industry because there’s a lack of mentoring or retention programs to support advancement to management levels.
- If you review the performance facts on woman-run companies, it is clear that diversity is important.This is not new – look at what other companies and industries have done to increase diversity. Challenge everyone to solve how to increase diversity.
- Women of color need to be included in the goals for more women in solar.
- Women should pull from their networks of women to help more women get employed in solar.
WISE is compiling all the feedback from each city, and planning to release the information in time for International Women’s Day on March 8. Find out more about WISE and its initiatives at www.solwomen.org.
As a board member for Women in Cleantech & Sustainability in San Francisco, I greatly look forward to seeing more women across the world uniting to support the advancement of diversity in our communities. Explore this site to learn about regional events, volunteer opportunities, job postings, and more.
Elizabeth Galusha has devoted her career to environmental work for over 10 years in a wide range of industries, from electronics recycling to textiles manufacturing, driving companies to reduce their environmental impact throughout the life cycle of their product. Currently, Elizabeth is a board member of Women in Cleantech and Sustainability in San Francisco, where she helps with events and public relations. In her free time, you can find her outside — all weather, all terrain — climbing the steepest local trail, or on the soccer field at her weekly matches.