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Women in Solar: Is Equality on the Horizon?

The Solar industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years. In order to sustain this level of development, the demand for expert professionals in the field to drive the creation and implementation of innovate services and technology has become paramount. This demand, however, has evidently led to a skills shortage, where a gender imbalance has also emerged within the employment demographic. The male-saturated solar marketplace has been a prominent topic of debate for many years, but is perhaps more prevalent and visible within the solar recruitment landscape.

 

Alexander Daniels’ Head of Solar and Energy Storage, Tom Monaco, comments, “The skills shortage is apparent. The solar community need to do something about it if the sector is to continue at its rate of development, and direct the solar industry towards a more sustainable and creative path. In my whole career of recruiting niche solar energy professionals, I have only ever placed two females! Both of these women were exceptional candidates who were passionate about change within the solar industry. But let’s consider one major question: how can the solar energy sector truly become stronger and advance in the foreseeable future if we are only tapping into half of the potential talent pool?”

 

So, why aren’t there more women in the solar industry? It is possible that there could be several factors effecting female employment in this marketplace? Our social-cultural expectations of what women should be like and what careers they should pursue may have a bearing on how they view their career opportunities within the solar industry- which is perhaps very limited as women are not expected to take an interest in more technical and manufacturing subjects. To add to this point, whilst women at a young age aren’t discouraged to take an interest in manufacturing and engineering related topics at school, the problem perhaps lies in how little it is discussed in terms of their potential and how it could add value to the industry. This lack of knowledge about careers within solar for women has set off a chain reaction, whereby many simply bypass the opportunity to forge their careers in solar as they have not been given the opportunity to explore the fundamental topics that form the foundations of the industry, such as electrical and chemical engineering.

 

In addition to this, despite knowing about the gender imbalance within the industry, institutional organisations lack the support initiatives to drive diversity within the sector- such as organising networking events to boost solar as an area of interest or negotiating maternity cover policies that would enable women to feel more comfortable working within the industry. Similarly, another aspect to bring to light is that although women who already work in the industry are proactive about pushing for change, the lack the support from their senior counterparts, which are too often dominated by men, has affected the impact of this movement in welcoming and progressing women within the industry.

 

So, what are the implications of having a lack of diversity within the Solar Energy Sector? Well first and foremost, missed opportunities! Women can bring a different perspective to the solar market in the sense that they act as proxies for the majority of the consumer household demographic, who would be the decision-makers regarding any changes or additions to the family lifestyle and home. This means they are able to give conceptual insights into what could potentially attract prospective customers to utilise solar services and technologies. This could have a profound impact upon the marketing surrounding solar energy equipment, which would naturally increase productivity! Also, it has been well documented that companies with a more diverse employment base tend to fair better in terms of company culture and revenue compared to companies who have low gender diversity in their teams. Moreover, the high demand for skilled solar professionals compounded with the low supply of these desired individuals will cause intensified inter-company competition to attract talented professionals, which will primarily be achieved by offering higher salary packages. Whilst this movement may seem beneficial for the individual, it is in fact bad for solar businesses, as the market will become distorted by the high turnover of professionals moving between companies. They may even be overpaid for a role which does not necessarily match an individual’s skillset and capabilities as companies want to retain their employees to remain competitive.  Increased prices incurred by consumers as a result of pay increases would also have a negative impact on the industry. So it would appear that the addition of more women in solar would encourage creativity, positive competition, and also boost productivity!

 

The potential solution to improve gender equality in the community of solar professionals could be a greater recognition of top female talent already existing in the market, and to help them fulfil more senior management level positions within leading, influential solar technology companies. Solar energy organisations must foster and embrace a forward thinking attitude which supports business practices that are more gender sustainable. This can be achieved on several levels by introducing educational or training courses and social events for all females to attend, enabling them to explore the related fields of solar and trigger their curiosity to delve deeper in the field. This is especially important for younger females, perhaps in their teenage years, since we need to capture their interests at the crucial stage where their participation in more technically-orientated subjects can help to pave their career pathways in solar. This sentiment is also echoed by Tom:

 

“It’s about changing their mind-set, introducing solar to girls at an early age and getting them excited about what they can to do to contribute to the growing industry. We need to empower them with knowledge so they can develop into routes which will enable them to have a career in solar if that’s what they want. Subjects like Electrical Engineering, Software Programming and Materials & Manufacturing will become instrumental foundation subjects for the solar industry.”

 

It seems that this topic of discussion and debate will continue to have a presence in the solar sector. Essentially, what we believe to be the key to positively affecting this imbalance is to inspire the female demographic to fuel the development of the solar energy and storage sector. In doing so, a more gender diverse workspace could only have optimistic outcomes in transforming the energy and sustainability landscape.

 

At Alexander Daniels Sales and Marketing we are passionate about advancing top talent within the Solar Energy and Storage sector, and wholeheartedly support the movement of women into the industry. So, if you are looking for a new career challenge, then get in touch with our Head of Solar & Energy Storage at tom.monaco@alexanderdaniels.co.uk.

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