Originally published on Women in Cleantech and Sustainability
Have you signed the pledge yet? Don’t know what I’m talking about?
What the pledge is all about
The pledge came out of a Multi-City Roundtable held in 14 cities in late February. It was an unusual event in offering much more than just a panel discussion. After that brief inspiration, the event got much more interactive. Small groups formed to brainstorm and discuss ideas for supporting women in solar, based on two questions:
- Why is it that women make up only about 20% of the solar industry, even though we represent 50% of the population?
- What policies would you like to see in place to help recruit and retain women in solar?
What did this lead to? A pledge that includes a number of specific goals to advance women in this young industry:
I will ensure that gender-diversity is a strategic and visible priority for myself and my company within the solar energy industry. I will do this by 1) fostering a culture where individual differences are respected, celebrated, and embraced; 2) help WISE advance women leaders in the solar energy industry 3) help WISE establish benchmarks and metrics to measure and report annually on progress toward goals and objectives 4) Help WISE develop recruiting practices that lead to more gender-balanced candidate pools for key positions 5) support education, training, and mentoring programs targeted at positive career planning and advancement for women employees 6) improve support for all employees with families to optimize recruitment and retention of women employees 7) support solar schools, the Kidsun Project and other STEM programs for young women and girls to create a robust pipeline of top female talent for solar energy industry companies.
Why we need a pledge
If you’re wondering why we need this pledge, you haven’t been paying attention to the solar industry — or to cleantech, or even just to tech. Stories come out almost daily about the under-representation of women in tech, especially in leadership positions.
That’s led to some interesting responses like Ed Zimmerman’s pledge for gender inclusion, one we’d all do well to emulate in cleantech. His is an important but small step. The #NationWISE pledge goes much further with its ambitious goals, which have been sorely needed in the solar industry.
Solar, like many other cleantech fields, is still in the process of maturing. As we discussed at the February roundtable, a number of issues keep women from entering or staying in the solar industry:
- Women may feel that the industry is construction- and engineering-heavy (not a good reason for women to stay out, but let’s face it — women aren’t flocking to construction and engineering in huge numbers).
- Women may not realize that they can use transferable skills in solar.
- Some women might be less drawn to solar’s “startup” culture.
- Women might leave the solar industry because they don’t feel encouraged to advance to management levels.
Why do we need more women in solar? Apart from the fairness of giving women an equal opportunity, compelling business reasons make the case:
- Companies with greater diversity, and with women in leadership roles, have been shown to outperform those that lack diversity.
- Women are major solar consumers, as Identity3 found in a survey last year. To increase residential solar adoption, solar companies need to understand that segment of their customer base.
Time to sign the pledge
As the solar industry matures, we’re seeing a greater awareness of the need to get more women into solar, and to support them once they’re in. Now we’re also seeing more initiatives to do something about it.
So have you signed the pledge yet? Let’s all sign as the first step to making women in solar a force to be reckoned with.