It is getting obvious which way the winds are changing regarding renewable energy. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds and so is the percentage of female engineers to the workforce. Around the world and across first to third world countries, wind, solar and geothermal energy sources are outpacing the traditional ways to power the world. Multinational companies are seeking to hire the best and brightest minds from universities offering degrees in high tech engineering and renewable energy resources. Some companies offer internships paying well above the average workforce just to lock in top students before graduation.
According to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) almost 6.5 million Americans are currently employed in both traditional energy and renewable energy businesses. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 new jobs, which is equal to 15% of all new jobs across the country. Analyzing four important sectors of the U.S. economy, the 2017 USEER lists the first two as traditional energy sectors. The second two represent categories increasingly reliant on renewable energy sources.
- Electric Power Generation and Fuels
- Transmission, Distribution and Storage
- Energy Efficiency
- Motor Vehicles
The report represents women make up about a third of U.S. wind and solar energy jobs, which is higher than other fields of technology. There are approximately 102,000 women employed in solar and wind energy currently.
The DOE report found similar proportions of women in other energy fields including biofuels, coal and combined heat and power.
The male-dominated petroleum industry as well as energy efficiency-based businesses had around one-fourth of jobs filled by women.
Kristen Graf, executive director of Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE), believes women in wind energy are making a difference. WRISE promotes the education, professional development, and advancement of women to achieve a strong diversified workforce and support a robust renewable energy economy.
“Teams of any kind do better when they are more diverse—full of different ideas, perspectives, backgrounds and talents,” she said. “A piece of that diversity is having more women in the mix, and right now, in the renewable energy space, we need more women in all roles and at all levels to help drive toward the kind of success we are capable of and know we need.”
But where to find these hidden gems and diamonds in the rough? Many companies are turning to renewable energy executive search firms that specialize in emerging technologies. They have their finger on the pulse of what universities specialize in generating top female students in the category. The schools in turn develop programs which attract and produce more successful female grads to fill the need. Women currently in renewable energy positions often find themselves being contacted for even higher positions and salaries.
The government also constantly seeks candidates in this growing field. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy offers insight into clean jobs, as well as career opportunities within the U.S. Department of Energy in research, development, and deployment of renewables and energy efficiency.
Futures in Renewable Energy
“There is always a demand for women in the field of renewable energy,” said Duffy Group, Inc. Vice President and Practice Leader Eden Higgins, who specializes in renewable and green energy recruitment. “Renewable Energy needs intelligent, forward thinking professionals in all areas of the industry. Many of our clients specifically request that we recruit female professionals.”
An article in the Huffington Post featured initiatives worldwide to boost women’s energy sector participation. An innovative Swedish investment group by the name of Qvinnovindar is a female-exclusive cooperative which has invested USD 1.5 million in wind-turbine generation in Sweden.
“Women are an underutilized resource” said Higgins, “and have the unique opportunity to become top engineers, scientists, consultants, contractors and executive managers in solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, smart grid, sustainability and other emerging markets for renewable energy.”
The writing is on the wall and in the melting of polar ice. Ignoring the dynamism of half the workforce will only delay the true potential of alternative and renewable energy. Closing the gender gap in the energy sector will double the bright minds available to tackle this most important initiative for us all. The world depends upon it.