The number of women in science and technology-focused fields continue to grow each year- but, are continually underrepresented in leadership positions and research opportunities.
According to a study done by the Solar Energy Industries Association, women represented only 26% of the solar workforce in 2019. Like every other industry, women also experience a pay gap: women in solar make 74 cents on the dollar compared to men and are less likely to report that they have successfully moved up the career ladder.
Some other important data points highlighted in the study: only 28% of women in the solar industry hold manager, director, or president-level positions, and the differences are even starker for women of color. White women in corporate America hold 23% of senior vice president roles and 19% of c-suite roles, compared to women of color at 5% and 3%, respectively.
We asked some of the women on our team about their experience being a woman in a science or technology field and the results were enlightening.
Colby Smith, the Director of Prospecting at ClearPath Energy for over 7 years, had insight on being a woman in solar.
“Solar might be a new industry, but energy isn’t. For the most part, it is dominantly male and white and, depending on the conference, old. I am often the only woman in a meeting or call. In the beginning, it was difficult because I didn’t have many examples to follow as to how to be a woman in this industry. The majority of my examples were women who survived in the energy space because they learned to play the game that the men had built. They learned how to fit in with the old boys club. I tried that strategy, but the more I tried to fit in the more I felt like I didn’t belong. It took me a couple of years to realize I don’t have to play the game like them or play the game at all. So this is what I learned: If you don’t like the old boys club, don’t go. Make your own club. If you’re not motivated by climbing the corporate ladder, don’t climb it. Find what motivates you, and don’t let anyone tell you that it won’t get you where you want to go. If they want you to compete when you’d rather collaborate, find your fellow collaborators and build something great. Let the competitive types duke it out amongst themselves. And whenever in doubt, listen to your gut. It’s a much better guide than whatever the men are doing.”
Our generation is facing an unprecedented barrage of challenges and unknowns. Colby thinks about the people who stood up against their own unprecedented challenges and faced them and uses that to inspire and push herself every day.
We also spoke with our GIS Analyst, Lindsay Lawrence, about her experience in the industry. Lindsay was always aware that she was a minority in school, but it did nothing more than motivate her to work harder.
“I have learned that people might underestimate you, but their opinions of you change when you show them what you are capable of! I am fortunate that my experiences have been overall positive as a woman in STEM and hope that sometime in the near future there will no longer be a need to categorize us–we are all scientists working towards the same goals!”
The future is bright for women in energy and STEM fields. With more women entering the field than ever, the opportunities are endless. For effective changes to start, it will take a collective effort- from industry veterans, to newbies, and current students.