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WRISE up! Celebrating Women's Leadership in Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Energy Storage.

by Alex Cohen

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WRISE up! Celebrating Women's Leadership in Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Energy Storage.

over 5 years ago by Alex Cohen
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My colleague and I were invited to the WRISE event celebrating Women’s Leadership in Renewables, Energy Efficiency, and Energy Storage held in Bloomberg’s building in Manhattan and I felt it important to share my thoughts on a, perhaps incorrectly, highly politicized subject.

Before I go ahead, at this stage, I think it’s important to tell you that a) I am a man and b) I am

a feminist. 

What does being a feminist mean to me? It means equality without question. That women and men, in education and the workplace, deserve equal rights, equal opportunity and should be treated with equal amounts of respect.

As a leader of Piper Maddox, a recruitment business that focuses exclusively in placing professionals in one of the most progressive industries out there – Renewable Energy & Cleantech, it was important for me to learn about equality and inequality in the workplace in our industry. Perhaps more importantly, I wanted to learn how we could help the businesses in our sector to improve their diversity and why they should be putting this at the forefront of their hiring strategies. This is why I was honored to have been invited to this event and have the opportunity to learn from impactful women such as Kristen Graf, Executive Director of WRISE.

Here were some of the key takeaways I gained from Kristen Graf’s presentation:

  • The renewable energy industry is projected to employ 24 million people globally by 2030, up from 9.8 million today – we’re going to need to mobilize a diverse workforce!

  • According to a major MIT study, group decision making was improved by 3 major factors, with the 3rd being the proportion of women in the group.

  • Where there are 3 or more women on the board, they outperformed businesses with zero women on the board by 84% for ROS (return on sales), by 60% for ROIC (return on investment capital) and by 46% for ROE (return on equity) in four of five years where data was recorded.

  • Although it did increase year on year, by 2013 the Energy industry was behind most major industries in the percentage of women on boards of businesses, with just less than 10%.

In a famous study, where identical resumes were assigned 4 different names “Jamal”, “Greg”, “Jennifer” and “John” there were some interesting results: “Jamal” needed 8 additional years’ experience to be considered as qualified as “Greg”; “Jennifer” was offered $4,000 less in starting salary than “John”.

  • There is inherent unconscious bias built into the interview process of most companies that make it more difficult for women (and minorities) to succeed. There is also bias built into most other areas of talent engagement including how adverts are written.

During the networking event, we also discussed some of the solutions to increase the diversity of the workforce in Renewable Energy. What is clear is that we need to:

  • Increase the recruitment of women into our sector and the businesses within it.

  • We need to develop the women in our businesses, through training and mentoring programs.

  • We need to retain the women in our businesses and in our industry.

  • We need to promote the women in our businesses and give them tools to progress.

Speaking to the different attendees, and even members of the Board of WRISE, some trends became clear that I noticed.

Firstly, all of these women are passionate about Renewable Energy and they have been for a long time. So, it’s disheartening to hear how most of the people I spoke to had felt like a minority in their business and felt marginalized both socially and professionally. Some of the people went so far as to admit they considered leaving their businesses and the industry itself because of the “boys club”.

It was interesting and heartening to hear about how mentoring from both men and women had played an important role in their careers, and also how this offered a support network that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. There were great stories of progression in the industry, the different female advocacy groups that have since sprung up and the strides some businesses have made – for example; we talked about how BP has appointed their first black female CEO! Great to hear about positive change.

What was really exciting was talking to the different members of WRISE and sharing how, Piper Maddox, as a recruitment partner can help educate and facilitate diversity in the workplace. We’ve experienced such positive reactions from the market and our clients about the different diversity initiatives that we can run.

I have sparked an internal debate about how best to formalize these programs and aggressively take them to the market to offer the options that our clients want to see. While we’re discussing this internally, I’d greatly appreciate any input, either privately or in the comments section to hear your challenges around diversity, possible solutions or anything else regarding hiring in the Cleantech sector.

I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!

Finally, I wanted to send a big thank you to WRISE – it was an honor to be invited, we had a great time and look forward to the next event!