STEMming the Tide: Women Leading the Charge in Sustainable Energy

The role of tech in sustainable energy: Opportunities for women in STEM

Amidst global pressure to decarbonize the world’s energy systems and reach net zero by 2050, the energy sector has been experiencing significant growth and transformation. In the UK and around the world, we are seeing incredible new technologies emerge that are making waves. 

However, while technology is advancing, diversity and inclusion in the energy sector are still an issue. Despite misconceptions about women in tech, plenty of women are interested in pursuing careers in STEM — and yet, the energy sector remains one of the least diverse globally. According to the International Energy Association (IEA), women account for only 32% of the workforce in renewable energy. 

Although these numbers remain low, numerous organizations are working toward resolving the gender gap issue with diversity and inclusion initiatives, including POWERful Women (PfW), Regen’s Women in Renewable Energy Network (ReWiRE), and the Women’s Whole Energy Systems Research and Innovation Network (WERIN).

While there is still a lot of work to be done, these initiatives indicate that there are significant opportunities for women interested in STEM to pursue careers in the energy sector. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the technologies transforming the energy sector, why more women are needed in renewable energy, and the women who are already making waves in the industry. We’ll also offer tips and insights for women who are interested in kickstarting their careers in the renewable energy sector. 

Sustainable Energy Today

In 2022, the UK government pledged to boost funding for the renewable energy sector with a £37 million investment. Since then, we have seen numerous new technologies emerge that are transforming renewable energy solutions. Even before 2022, advances in tech have been driving the transition to sustainable energy.

AI advancements, for example, have been flooding the industry in the past few years, resulting in significant growth in research and development, construction, and manufacturing. Some of these innovations include smart grids, predictive maintenance, and renewable energy forecasting. 

Renewables, such as solar energy, are also improving with advances in tech. Hybrid energy storage systems, for example, now make it possible for solar panels to collect energy from the sun as well as from microturbines on days that are not so sunny. 

Other innovations include green hydrogen, carbon capture and storage technologies, geothermal energy, wave energy converters (WECs), and solar fuel reactors — just to name a few. As investments pour in for these technologies and new renewable energy projects, there is going to be a surge in employment, which presents numerous opportunities for more women to get their foot in the door.  

Why Does the Energy Sector Need More Women?

As the energy sector grows, diverse career paths will continue to open up. Some renewable energy careers that are in demand include: 

  • Solar photovoltaic installer;
  • Wind turbine technician;
  • Electrical engineer;
  • Green architect;
  • Power plant operator;
  • Data scientist;
  • Chemical engineer;
  • Software developer.

The evolution and competitiveness of each of these fields will depend on whether or not the workforce attracts more diverse talent. Innovation is at the heart of sustainable and renewable energy, but a lack of diversity will hinder innovation. 

Gender diversity is vital for driving more inclusive solutions and greater innovation, which is backed by numerous studies that show how diverse teams outperform when it comes to innovation and problem-solving. One such study from McKinsey & Company showed that greater gender diversity on senior executive teams in the UK corresponded with the highest performance uplift. 

Even the UK government recognizes the need for more gender inclusivity in the energy sector, stating, “Successfully transitioning to a net zero future will depend on our ability to harness all possible talent in service of the breakthrough ideas and solutions that will transform our societies.” 

Closing the Gender Gap: Women in Sustainable Energy

While there is a long way to go yet until the gender gap is closed, it’s reassuring to know that women in the UK are already making names for themselves in the energy industry. 

Gunhild Grieve, CFO of RWE Supply & Trading, is leading the way in green energy with Growing Green, an investment and growth strategy that is contributing to the decarbonization of the energy system. There is also Victoria Ossadnik, COO of Digital and Innovation at E.ON, who has played an important role in pushing for the adoption of AI to help accelerate the transition toward net zero energy. 

Other names of note include Dr. Jutta A. Dönges – CFO of Uniper, Anna Krutikov – Head of Sustainable Development a Glencore, Helle Kristoffersen – President Asia & Country Chair Japan for TotalEnergies, and Aurélia Tremblaye – SVP and Group CPO for ENGIE. 

Tips and Insights for Women Interested in a Sustainable Energy Career

If you are interested in pursuing a career in renewable energy, it’s important to start planning now to future-proof your education and ensure success. This starts with setting your sights on an in-demand job, such as one of those listed above. It’s also important to build a strong professional network of individuals you can lean on for valuable guidance and access to diverse job opportunities. 

Networking plays an important role in providing you with a support system in an ever-changing job market. It’s also important not to neglect your soft skills when planning for your future career in renewable energy. While hard skills are critical, employers also want individuals who are well-rounded in their capabilities. 

Some of the most important soft skills employers are looking for include creativity, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, and good listening skills. Other skills that are good to have can include good communication, conflict management, adaptability, and time management. 

In addition to stacking your skillset, if you want to get ahead and open yourself up to more opportunities, it’s important to think internationally when creating your career plan. Don’t limit yourself to working locally. Countries all over the world are making incredible advancements in the energy sector and with diversity initiatives on the rise, they will be looking for people with varying life experiences. 

Wrapping Up

On a final note, as the energy sector evolves, it will be important for women interested in pursuing careers in the field to keep track of industry trends. As new technologies emerge, the industry can quickly change in terms of skills needed and job demand. Keeping track of industry trends can help you stay ahead of these changes and help you anticipate future job market dynamics, ensuring long-term career success. 

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors on a regular basis. Indiana loves experiencing new things and sharing with others what she learns through her writing. You can chat with Indiana on twitter @IndianaLee3