The renewable energy market continues to report record growth. Global wind capacity is on track to hit 800 GW by 2021, and the emerging energy storage market is expected to reach 125 GW of capacity in the next decade. The U.S. solar industry is on track to add 15 GW of Photovoltaic (PV) capacity annually between now and 2023. This historic growth has catapulted a sector once categorized as “alternative” into a critical role amongst our mainstream energy portfolio.

In the first quarter of 2018, wind and solar were responsible for 94 percent of new utility-scale energy capacity installed in the United States and are integral to generating affordable and reliable electricity to meet our energy demands. This explosive growth has also created job opportunities, with both solar installer and wind technician representing two of the fastest growing careers in the country. These career opportunities are one example of how the industry continues to support broad economic growth in the form of high-paying jobs all over the country.

Focused on diversity

A mix of talent that includes more women across the board is essential to keeping us focused on the future and meeting global climate goals. 

It’s not enough to sustain this growth: in order to meet global climate goals and keep temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, renewable energy capacity must grow to 4.53 terawatts by 2030. If renewable energy companies want to accelerate global deployment of renewable energy at this scale, it is important that these companies find and embrace the variety of mindsets and perspectives that come from a diverse workforce. A mix of talent that includes more women across the board is essential to keeping us focused on the future and meeting global climate goals.

As an engineering major, I saw firsthand that women were significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. My high school calculus classes were full of smart women that didn’t continue on to STEM careers in similar numbers as men. My front row seat to the gender STEM gap, combined with a vision for a sustainable future, solidified my commitment to recruiting and retaining more women in the renewable energy workforce.

Forward momentum

Just as the renewable energy landscape has evolved since I graduated college, the gender dynamic is also evolving. Colleges and universities are graduating more women in STEM fields and as a result, more are entering the workforce. Despite this changing dynamic, the energy sector remains behind in terms of recruiting, retaining and advancing women, particularly women of color. But organizations within the renewable energy space are becoming more proactive in pursuit of a diversified workforce. Examples of these efforts range from individual companies holding unconscious bias trainings or supporting internal affinity groups, to the work of organizations like Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). This solar trade association has set a priority goal of building a solar energy workforce as diverse as the United States and is following through on that goal by building partnerships with groups like Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy and the NAACP.

The data supports that many young women are interested in STEM careers because they see the connection of using science and technology to make the world a better place. Renewable energy offers a perfect nexus for many women to bring their love of math and science to bear on some of the greatest challenges of our time. At the same time women and their ideas and perspectives are desperately needed inside the new energy economy.

It is an amazing time to get to serve at the intersection of these two critical conversations.