International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality. At SEI, we want to honor all of the women working in the solar industry – both for their contribution in the energy transformation field, and for overcoming the barriers and challenges that women in the sector face every day. Furthermore, inspiring others with their experiences, ensuring that the energy systems of the future address the needs of all people in modern societies, leaving no one behind.
In recognition of all these wonderful women, we have created Solar Women Empower Week, where we will be sharing advice from the amazing women working and teaching at SEI. Hoping that their words and experiences can inspire others to start a solar journey, helping to end prejudices that create barriers for women who desire to participate in the global energy transition.
Barriers for women in the energy sector
According to Irenas’ report Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective, the perceptions of gender roles are seen as the most important barrier to entry into the sector. These are driven by cultural and social norms that influence many of the fundamental decisions people make. The ability to stay in a given job and opportunities for professional growth are shaped by the fact that close to half of all participating private sector firms, men represent at least 75% of board members. Mobility requirements and difficult work schedules are demanding for women shouldering family and household duties. Wage inequities are also an issue, as well as the lack of a supportive environment in the form of flexible work hours, family-friendly measures, mentoring and networking, training opportunities, and gender equity targets.
Access to adequate training as part of the solution
Even though measures to improve gender balance often depend on specific circumstances, this doesn’t have to discourage decision makers in the sector from taking action towards creating a more inclusive industry – even if there is still a long way to go.
SEI’s mission and duty is to provide access to adequate education and training opportunities, ensuring a safe and inclusive training environment that results in the empowerment of women across the world. Acknowledging the gender gap issue and taking action is our way to give back to the efforts of SEI’s women staff, instructors and students who have made their way into solar, with their skills and views representing an integral part of the growing industry.
We celebrate those organizations already supporting women in the industry and invite everyone to join us. If you would like to collaborate with SEI’s action towards a more inclusive industry, please contact SEI Development Director Marla Korpar at [email protected]
SEI Executive Director and SEIA board member Kathy Swartz share her experience
“I took my first SEI PV Design and Installation class in 2004. The class, which was for women only and taught by Carol Weis, had 17 women from a diversity of backgrounds and ages and it was life-changing! Some of the women took tech jobs in solar or installed systems on their homes. However, the class confirmed for me that while I was capable of installing systems, that the industry needed people with all kinds of skills and gifts—not just installers. There’s room for all of us in this industry! Whether you want to be on the roof, or to create innovative marketing campaigns, or excelling at designing utility-scale systems, or leading a company…the solar industry needs us all. Not only do I feel so very blessed to be working towards a vision of a world powered by renewable energy, but also to work with inspirational, strong women who truly are changing the world.
On behalf of all the women staff and instructors at SEI, Happy International Women’s Day! Don’t be afraid to live your passion and know that we are here to support you!”
Kathy Swartz, Executive Director