The energy industry has historically been a male-dominated sector. In fact, according to a 2014 white paper by the U.S. Agency for International Development, women comprised only 20 percent of the oil and gas industry in the United States.
However, when it comes to the renewable energy sector, the International Renewable Energy Association estimates for women working in solar, wind and wave are considerably higher — up to 33 percent in some parts of the world. And these numbers continue to increase. For instance, the percentage of women working in the United States solar market has grown by 5 percent, from just 19 percent in 2013, to 24 percent in 2016 (Solar Foundation, 2016).
Ecotech Institute’s Director of Career Development Natasha Maier recently shared her thoughts on the increasing interest and visibility of women in the renewable energy field.
“Although we have definitely noticed an increased interest and visibility of women in the renewable energy industry overall, the actual percentage of women applying to our school has remained at about the 10 percent mark,” Maier says.
Maier suspects that this is a result of the lack of education early on — at the high school level — regarding the technical fields available to women.
“As a result, many women are simply unaware that such career opportunities exist for them,” she says.
Despite this, female Ecotech Institute graduates have found success in the industry.
“We have lots of student success stories,” Maier says. “In fact, our Career Development team has helped graduates find jobs with over 130 companies across the country. For example, one of our female wind graduates was recently hired by NextEra Energy as a wind tech, and I have had positive reviews of her hard work.”
So, why is it important to have more women working in renewable energy?
“It’s all about diversity, equality and efficiency,” she says. “Women should be spearheading this clean energy boom. According to the 2012 World Development Report, greater gender equality leads to significant productivity gains, and thus, provides better returns on investments. Finding solutions to our current energy problems requires a multifaceted approach and great deal of creativity; and this is also why it is so important to have both male and female perspectives represented in the field.”
Maier predicts there is an amazing future ahead for women in renewable energy, and that the industry will continue to grow in the next five to ten years. She’s encouraged that high schools are now starting to provide more career information regarding the renewable energy sector, especially to female students.
“Women are sought after by most of my major hiring companies,” she says. “I would definitely encourage them to enter the field.”