by Jen Stevenson
Energy is a male-dominated industry. Look at the bios of leaders at utilities, regulators and wholesale market participants and it’s easy to see that most are lacking in terms of gender and ethnic diversity. This trend isn’t unique to the world of energy; a report commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada showed women hold a paltry 4.2% of CEO positions in the Fortune 500, 4.6% at S&P 500 companies, and 9% of CEO positions globally.
We at Climable are continuously impressed by the amazing women we meet through our work. On our RUN-GJC microgrid project, over half of the core group is represented by women (and over half the core group is represented by people of color). Six incredible and accomplished females lead our Board of Directors. Our Executive Director is a woman with over 25 years experience in energy. While all of our interns through the MassCEC have been fantastic- most of them have been women! We’ve collaborated with Professors like Jennie Stephens, who is Northeastern University’s Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Dean's Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy. We’ve met with leaders like Vidya Tikku, who is the General Manager at The Trustees of Reservations and Board President of the Grassroots Environment Fund. We have joined Yanel de Angel’s (of Perkins + Will) incredible volunteer team to design resilient social, economic and environmental solutions for Puerto Rico. We are housed within the offices of Synapse Energy Economics, one of the premier energy and economics consulting firms in the country with a seriously talented group of female employees (who make up more than half the company).
At the Greater Portland Inc. annual economic summit, speaker Astrid Sholz (another woman with whom we are connected through the E3 Network) noted that “women found businesses at twice the rate of men, and run them more efficiently. Yet they receive less venture capital and fewer commercial loans.” This is disappointing! Even Chairman Mao recognized that “Women hold up half the sky.”
Recently, I heard about the term 'zebra' to describe companies whose “goal is [to] solve meaningful problems while repairing existing social systems.” The idea is that a zebra, because of its focus on social good, is distinct from the popular 'unicorns' we’ve heard of like Uber, Facebook, and Airbnb, who are considered disruptors. In researching this notion, I found an article that noted, “Women tend to create more practical businesses that are less risky and more socially conscious, traits that characterize the zebra concept.” While Climable is a not-for-profit, I believe we still qualify as a zebra, in large part due to our quest for energy democracy and environmental justice.
Why discuss this on our blog? Well, these days, there’s a lot of attention on women and how they are treated/mistreated, listened to/ignored, believed/discredited. These tough discussions can be heartbreaking, but are important. Representation matters. This is how we approach true equality. It feels good to be surrounded by the positive people we’ve met on our journey. If you’ve had any hand in this adventure so far, thank you!!