Whether it be 60-degree days in the middle of winter or the endless string of natural disasters plaguing the globe, climate change is an undeniable reality.
While its impact is already wreaking havoc on our environment, the destruction will also negatively affect the global economy, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Perception Survey.
And while renewable energy could go a long way in providing the solution to the growing climate change crisis, make no mistake; given the tremendous task required to achieve a successful transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, the process must be gender equitable. If not, the mission will never succeed.
Gender Diversity in The Renewable Energy Sector
There is an unquestionable link between women and renewable energy. Unlike in the science, technology, and mathematics fields, the energy field — more specifically the renewable energy sector — has a synergistic role with women. As energy systems transition away from fossil fuel-based systems, new opportunities are emerging for women to contribute to the development of a more creative, innovative, and dynamic community-oriented energy industry which is more responsive to social and cultural change.
One such opportunity created by the transition to renewable energy is that of increased employment for women in the sector.
According to The International Renewable Energy Agency, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector could increase from 10.3 million in 2017 to nearly 29 million by 2050. This means women will have more opportunities to participate and show that we are a vital participant with incredible contributions.
Especially as we look to change our way of thinking and living in this green, new world which, in turn, allows us to add even more of our much-needed muscle to the growing economy. According to a 2018 report, in the U.S. alone the renewable energy sector employs 777,000 people, while energy efficiency jobs provide employment for over 2.2 million workers.
In the workplace, female inclusion and gender parity provide multiple benefits, as well. Women are more likely to support sustainability and environmental action in the workplace, according to a study from the University of California - Berkeley, which found that companies with the highest percentage of women in top management and on their board of directors are more likely to invest in renewables, as well as considering environmental risks.
From a cultural and social perspective, women’s inclusion in the renewable energy sector is vital, as well. Women are the main users and producers of household energy and they make many, if not most of the family purchases related to energy. If the renewable energy industry fails to include women to the fullest extent, the sector will be missing out on a key market.
The Trailblazers in Renewable Energy
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, we should remember to celebrate the many women who have advanced the renewable energy industry, including Beth Soholt, Executive Director of Wind on the Wires, Jessica O. Matthews, CEO and Founder of Uncharted Power, and Laura Stachel, Co-founder and Executive Director of We Care Solar whose company, We Care Solar, has helped equip more than two thousand health centers and saved the lives of more than 1.5 million mothers and infants around the world. She was deservedly named one of CNN’s top 10 heroes of 2013.
These women are experienced entrepreneurs in energy-related enterprises. Without their involvement, renewable energy projects risk failing and falling by the waste side.
Women are an underutilized resource in all of the STEM fields, but the renewable energy sector is an area which must not be overlooked.
We have a world of knowledge and resources to bring to the table and with scientists, scholars, and all presidential candidates calling climate change a top priority, it is imperative that we unite to combat this dire global issue.
Sheila Ronning, founder and CEO of Women In The Boardroom – an organization founded with the goal of bridging the gender gap in the boardroom – is a recognized expert on boardroom diversity and leadership. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter @RonningSheila).
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