If you take a close look at the makeup of the renewable energy sector in the United States you’ll notice something missing: women. Although women make up more than half of the workforce in the United States, rough estimates put the percentage of women working in renewable energy sectors at 25 percent or less.
A Brooklyn-based organization is trying to change that. Women of Wind Energy (WoWE) is a nonprofit with a mission to promote the education, professional development and advancement of women in renewable energy fields.
“The work we do to recruit and retain women in the field, to have a stronger renewable energy presence around the world, is critical for success of the industry in the long run,” Kristen Graf, WoWE’s executive director said in a recent interview. “More and more, studies show companies that have women on their board of directors or in leadership positions are proving more successful in return on capital investment and on business performance.”
WoWE was formed in 2005 by a group of women who attended the annual Wind Power Conference & Exhibition and were frustrated by the lack of women they saw not only sitting on the panels, but attending the event. To encourage more women to attend the event, they collected money and started a fellowship that pays for travel and conference expenses. The first year there were around 10 fellows in attendance. The group also hosted a luncheon at the conference, which, to their surprise, ended up being so popular it was standing room only.
Today, the organization draws hundreds of attendees to its annual luncheon at the conference and 35 WoWE chapters have sprung up across the United States and Canada. The organization has also recently retooled its mentoring program. “The mentoring program was launched in 2008 as a continuation of the growing number of women at the events and chapters,” Graf said.
Just a few months ago, the organization brought management of the program in-house instead of having it run by a third-party vendor. This results have meant more mentoring options for women. “We’ve now expanded on our original model and made it more flexible,” Graf said. “Mentors can be matched one-time, for three months, for six months or for a year’s time, and at anytime throughout the year.”