An interesting article written by Caitlin Ritchie, published on the website Save on Energy (saveonenergy.com) about women in the Energy Industry.
KEY POINTS: - Women make up only 22% of the workforce in the energy sector and 32% in the renewable energy sector. - Despite the gender gap, women have historically contributed to advancing technology in the energy field. - There are a variety of scholarships available for women interested in careers in STEM fields.
Women-identifying energy workers make up less than a quarter of the industry workforce. There is a similar pay discrepancy between genders in the renewable energy field. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported women made up only 32% of the renewable energy workforce, with the bulk of their roles in administrative positions. While this is more favorable than the gender gap in the total energy industry (where women only account for 22% of the workforce), significant imbalances remain.
IRENA estimates that by 2050, there will be roughly 29 million jobs in the renewable energy sector. As renewable energy like wind and solar become a more common power source in the U.S. and the job market grows, more women may seek employment in the renewables industry.
While room for diversification remains, many women have already made significant contributions to the energy sector. SaveOnEnergy celebrates the accomplishments of women in the renewable energy industry.
Women´s History Month 2023
March is Women’s History Month — a perfect time to celebrate the achievements of women. Despite historically accounting for a smaller percentage of the workforce, women have broken ground as leaders in the energy industry throughout the years.
The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy highlights many of the leading women in the energy industry throughout history. Going back to the 1850s, Eunice Foote’s experiments with atmospheric gases led to the discovery of the greenhouse effect. One of Foote’s male colleagues presented her findings in 1856 and Foote did not receive credit for her research until 2011.
In the 1930s, Mária Telkes’ research into solar technology led to her invention of a solar-powered desalination kit to make seawater drinkable for pilots and sailors during World War II. She later made many other significant contributions to the solar industry, including her creation of a solar-powered home heating system.
Women continue to drive the energy sector forward. From improving the electrical grid to developing new batteries for electric vehicles, there’s no shortage of female innovators to celebrate this March. Just a few of the women who have contributed to advancements in the energy industry include:
- Denise Gray, an electrical engineer who founded General Motors’ battery lab and led the development of the lithium-ion battery system. Gray has worked to expand access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula and has received multiple awards over the years, including Women of Color’sTechnologist of the Year in 2017 and the U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Initiative’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
- Njema Frazier, an assistant deputy administrator for strategic partnership programs at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration. Frazier was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics from Michigan State University and has worked to improve diversity in STEM fields.
- Nicole Hernandez Hammer, an expert in climate change and an environmental justice advocate who researched and provided extensive outreach to low-income communities and communities of color impacted by climate change. Hernandez Hammer’s research contributed to the National Climate Assessment in 2014, a detailed analysis of current and future impacts of climate change in the U.S.
- Lei Cheng, a chemist and energy storage researcher whose work has been crucial in electrifying the transportation sector and powering the electrical grid with renewable energy. Cheng received a Midwest Energy News40 under 40 award for her research and contributions regarding advanced lithium-ion batteries in 2018.
Top energy careers
As the energy industry evolves, the job market changes and, in many cases, workers in the industry become more valuable. According to Forbes, wind turbine technicians and solar panel installers are the fastest-growing trade careers in 2023.
BestColleges.com notes petroleum engineers, chemical engineers, and wind farm site managers are the highest-paying jobs in the energy field. Nuclear engineers, solar project developers, and solar energy technicians also make the list.
Increased access to STEM resources and education can help women break into the fast-growing, high-paying career opportunities in the energy industry.
IRENA also recommends policy changes to encourage closing the gender gap in the energy workforce. Equal training opportunities, improving parental leave, and flexible work hours are a good place to start. Salary transparency and career growth opportunities help support networking and mentorship for women in this field.
STEM scholarship opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM careers will increase by 10.8% by 2031. The median annual wage is approximately $55,000 higher than non-STEM occupations.
Women interested in expanding their training and education in STEM fields can apply for a variety of scholarships to help fund ongoing education. SaveOnEnergy’s corporate partner BestColleges.com offers a list of scholarships specifically designed for women interested in STEM.
While women tend to make up less of the workforce in the energy sector, they have consistently contributed to advancing energy technology throughout history and into present day. The female industry leaders have opened doors for future leaders, narrowing the gender gap, creating invaluable research, and improving the quality of the energy industry.
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