In WCS Blog
By Rosana Francescato
Where can you learn about, and be inspired by, the many cleantech and sustainability solutions happening all around us — and the women making them happen? At WCS Talks 2015.

At Women in Cleantech & Sustainability, we want to give women of all ages and career levels the opportunity to have a voice, speak their truth, and inspire each other. That’s why each year we host this TED-style event. While our speakers have given plenty of presentations on their company’s technology or service, very few have voiced their perspective on what it’s like being a woman in their industry.

“WCS Talks is the platform for amazing women to share their stories and advice with the larger community,” says Lisa Ann Pinkerton, Founder and Chairwoman of WCS. “Last year the speakers found themselves just as inspired as the audience, and several went on to give more talks on their female-centric topic.”

Those of us lucky enough to attend last year’s WCS Talks were blown away by the quality of the speakers and their stories. That event was a fitting appetizer for this year’s full day of inspiration.

What can you expect? Here’s just a small part of our speaker lineup:

We’re thrilled to be hosting the 2015 WCS Talks at Google — which is also providing two of our speakers for the day. Google has made investments in sustainability both at home and abroad, and has been carbon-neutral since 2007. But it doesn’t end there. Kate Brandt, Lead for Sustainability, and Joyce Dickerson, who leads Global Data Center Sustainability, will talk about the progress Google has made so far, and what’s to come. With so many people these days concerned about the carbon footprint of their internet use, data centers like Google’s are a focus of ongoing efforts to be as sustainable as possible. Brandt and Dickerson will cover what the company is doing to make that happen, and the innovations that are making it possible.

Financing is an important part of any renewable energy initiative, and Ani Rouskova, Principal at EOS Capital Advisors, will enlighten us on this area. Covering the importance of renewable energy and technologies, she’ll provide a unique perspective, showing how it’s not just megawatt-hours that are produced by renewables — but also a major investment opportunity. How does finance play into this? What’s it like being a woman in this environment? Find out at WCS Talks! 

Once a project is financed, it also has to be built. For a perspective on being a woman in the construction environment, we turn to Sara Carroll, Assistant Project Manager at Swinerton Renewable Energy. She’ll share with us the challenges she’s faced in a male-dominated industry. How does she keep her cool when most men come onto her work site asking, “Are you the secretary?” Being around a good team of men has helped. With a great upper-management group at Swinerton that supports women who want to excel and work toward management positions, she’s experienced opportunities to advance a field skill set that’s been out of reach for many women. She can even work a forklift! Carroll says that in her position, personality is everything — and sometimes you just have to think like a man. What does she mean by this? Her talk will reveal all.

Fiona Taylor, Vice President of Asset Management at SolarCity, has firsthand experience with the growth of a new company. Since starting at SolarCity, the company has added over 10,000 employees and has established itself as the top residential installer in the nation. Her leadership has certainly been key to this growth and success. She has made it a priority to hire women at SolarCity, increase diversity, and promote from within. She also helped spearhead an internal mentorship and networking group called Women in Power, focused on empowering and connecting women at SolarCity. Find out more at her talk!

Sharing another solar perspective will be Kathryn Arbeit, Regional Director of Project Development at First Solar, with her personal view on developing a 550 MW solar project. What did she need to learn on the way, and what made the project a success? You’ll find out at her talk. When it comes to women in solar, Arbeit feels that as solar continues its growth trajectory, opportunities for women will continue to multiply. The challenge will be ensuring that women can access challenging roles across the industry, including top leadership roles. Building a strong network of women in the industry, capable of both mentorship and close collaboration, will help overcome this.

Ella Foley Gannon, Parter at Morgan Lewis, brings a legal perspective. She’s observed considerable growth in renewable project development throughout the U.S. in recent months — with signs that the shift from traditional energy to renewable energy development will continue. She’d even go so far as to say that with California’s recent passage of SB 350 driving the renewable market in California and throughout the west, there simply won’t be room in the market for much new traditional energy development. Add to that the increasingly favorable economics of renewable energy, and an increasingly viable storage market, and we have a good outlook for renewables. Some challenges remain, like the complexities of environmental permitting, which Gannon will cover in her talk. Because so many agencies and stakeholders have an interest in the process, it takes skillful handling and an open mind to find the right path to making these projects happen. Find out how she does it!

These speakers highlight just a smattering of what’s in store for us at this year’s WCS Talks. With 20 speakers covering a host of topics and perspectives, we can expect a day full of boundless inspiration. It’s a day that’s sure to go by fast. Tickets are going fast too, so get yours now!

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