Why more women should work in the solar sector


Solarcentury's Susannah Wood says women would be wrong to think the solar industry is full of macho men or grungy engineers

It's International Women's Day and this seems like a really good excuse to reflect on what it's like to be a woman in solar. You might be forgiven for thinking it's a masculine environment full of grungy engineers. But that's not the case.

In Solarcentury, there are plenty of women calling the shots and making a difference in sales, project management, legal, marketing, finance, development, operations, HR and engineering. And what a fabulous bunch of women they are; funny, competitive, smart and ambitious.

However, it's not just the women that make solar a great workplace (and I'm probably going to receive a lot of grief for saying this). It's also the men that make solar a really positive environment. This almost certainly has something to do with solar attracting people who care; people who care about climate, the natural environment and who want to work where you have a purpose. Nearly everyone I know in solar is committed to making a difference in combating climate change and really enjoys being part of a revolution in energy.

Having a purpose to your work doesn't replace qualities such as ambition or competition. It's additive. And I believe it's the kind of addition that women respond to really well. In organisations where there is no buy-in to a broader purpose, what's left to think about? Yourself. And in my view, it's self-obsession which drives an overly macho culture where success is measured entirely in terms of status and material acquisition.

In my previous job, the prevailing conversation when we weren't talking about work was cars. People, mainly men, talked about their cars ALL THE TIME. People at Solarcentury are not defined by the car they drive and that makes them a lot more interesting (although, maybe there is a bit too much chat about bikes).

A new report has just been published which finds that more women in Scotland are working in renewables than in oil and gas or nuclear (28 per cent). I'd like to encourage many more women to think about careers in solar. It's such a diverse business that it doesn't really matter what you're good at, there's going to be a role in solar for you.

We need women who are good with people, good with numbers, good at design, good with detail, good with languages. You name it. I strongly believe you'll enjoy it for the following reasons, reasons that are particularly appealing to women.

First, you'll learn a lot. I don't know anyone at Solarcentury who isn't learning every day. Second, you'll be part of a team. Companies that aren't full of self-obsessed individuals are more inclined to teamwork and are much more egalitarian. Third, you get to go home at night knowing that you're making a positive difference to the world. I promise you: it doesn't get better than that.

Susannah Wood is Marketing Director at Solarcentury, which is a partner of the BusinessGreen Solar Hub

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