How can we increase the visibility of women in cleantech? And why is it important that we do so?
We know that in tech in general, women are underrepresented. The average breakdown is about 30% women to 70% men in tech companies.
What’s being done about this? In tech, not much.
A recent article in the Atlantic pointed out that although a number of tech companies have finally responded to the many calls to reveal their demographic data, that’s about all they’ve done. They seem to be following a simple formula: Publish a blog post with a sleek graph showing how few women and minorities you employ, acknowledge how far you have to go, and decline interviews on the matter, pointing people back to your blog post instead.
We can do so much more. And we need to. In cleantech, women may be even more underrepresented than in tech in general. In solar, for example, women make up only 18.7% of the workforce.
While this is a complex issue that needs to be addressed on many levels, increasing the visibility of women is one component.
The more women are on panels, at conferences, and at other cleantech events, the more women will see cleantech as an area they can go into. And women will feel much more welcome in a profession where we’re not a small minority.
What can we do about this?
Venture lawyer and angel investor Ed Zimmerman has an interesting idea. He’s made a pledge that if he’s invited to a business dinner with at least ten people, women (plural) must be included or he won’t attend. If he’s invited to a panel with five or more speakers, at least one must be a woman.
As Zimmerman acknowledges, his pledge won’t solve the problem. But it’s a small step toward opening up more events — and presumably more tech industries — to women.
To those who say his pledge is arbitrary, he answers, “I wanted to do something that would be easy to objectively measure and easy for others to also do.”
He adds that when he tells people about his effort, they end up suggesting very talented and accomplished women to include in events. In fact, he says, articulating his goal has changed his own behavior when he organizes events.
So let’s follow Zimmerman’s example in cleantech. Let’s make this pledge for cleantech, and recruit others to follow suit.
We’re already on our way with Women in Cleantech and Sustainability events, where most if not all panelists are women. Let’s work to get more women at other events, too.
As Zimmerman reminds us, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Let’s take the first step.
Rosana Francescato is Director of Communications at Sunible.com, an online marketplace that’s radically simplifying the home solar buying experience. She’s on the board of Women in Cleantech and Sustainability and the steering committee of theLocal Clean Energy Alliance. She’s been the top individual fundraiser at the GRID Alternatives Bay Area Solarthon five years in a row.