Recently I was in a meeting with four other women and it was embarrassingly notable. I’ve long ago stopped noticing when I am in a meeting with four men, so why should four women catch my attention? The answer of course is that this was a rare occurrence. Ask any woman in cleantech and she’ll tell you she’s more often than not the only female in the room. I will admit that in the past I used do things like wear my glasses, put my hair back, wear a button-up shirt – essentially I was trying to blend in, so I wouldn’t be perceived or judged in any way beyond my professional contributions. These were physical adjustments, rather than what I believe are more appropriate behavioral ones. Women should speak up more, say sorry less, demand what they want, and stop caveating. We need to fight the gender gap in cleantech, and encourage more women to enter, stay in, and become leaders in this amazing field.
Ironically, the clean energy industry is one of the best opportunities to have a positive influence in the world. It impacts everyone, and getting it right makes our planet better. It is exciting, fun, and has a positive social impact . . . something that women rank very highly when considering their careers. Sadly, many still believe inherent biological reasons exist that make men better suited for STEM careers than women. Absurd . . . yes, but the argument boils down to this: if 30 applicants apply for a position and only 4 of them are female, odds are that the best candidate for the job is male . . . and doesn’t every company just want to hire the best? What this is missing, however, is that the industry has a pipeline problem. The problem isn’t that a company might select one of the 26 males as the best candidate for the position – the problem is that the company didn’t do more up front on the issue that only 13% of their candidates in the pipeline were women to begin with.
At Voltus, we know we need to proactively recruit female candidates . . . the male candidates come to us easily. This is because, not surprisingly, our professional networks represent the existing industry bias – sitting at just 23% female, so we need to actively manage against this in order to avoid perpetuating the problem. We have done dramatically more direct outreach to female candidates, recruited directly through university networks (which have closer to even ratios), and posted and networked within female-based industry groups. We’ve done a decent job of improving the number of female candidates we attract, but we need to do much, much better.
We seek creative new ways to build out our pipeline of female candidates . . . this post itself is written to raise this issue and attract female candidates. Please share your stories, feedback, and advice with us, send this around to your female friends and colleagues, and come talk to us!
Dana Guernsey – Vice President of Market and Business Operations, Voltus, Inc.