Maybe #Womeninenergy Isn’t Enough

Posted September 22, 2016 By Sara Conzemius

A few weeks ago during the ACEEE Summer Study on Efficiency in Residential Buildings the ILLUME team hosted a picnic on the beach to bring together women working in this field for some camaraderie and conversation focused on #womeninenergy.  We wanted to create a casual environment for us to talk about what it takes for women to succeed in this space, how to balance our personal lives and work lives, and how we can support women moving into more leadership roles in our industry.

ACEEE 2016 Women in Energy Beach Picnic
A casual beach picnic can still be delicious!

If you follow ILLUME at all, you know that this is a topic we care about and talk about often.  The industry has evolved and there are certainly many women working and leading in our field; however, we still see a lack of women in top leadership roles. Unfortunately, we still hear stories of women being told they will be promoted when they “get off the mommy track” and women feel there are still assumptions made about what type of work women can and cannot do in this space. At the same time, I also know there are many in the energy tribe who “get it” when it comes to gender equality and we have a host of male colleagues who support this value (and even some who showed their support by coming to the picnic!).

Still, what came out of our conversations on the beach that day was a perspective that there are still real challenges that we face in business that are not faced by men. For example, men who choose to be a present and active parent are applauded, while women who choose to be a present and active parent are often held back. It is still, for another example, exceptional in our industry that ILLUME is a fully women-owned business.  After the picnic multiple attendees suggested that this event should be a standing part of ACEEE.

Critically, much of our conversation during the picnic was also focused on how to bring broader diversity into the energy industry more generally. Despite efforts to attract new and diverse voices into the field (for example, the excellent Linda Lathan Scholarship) we still see a deep lack of diversity. As we reflected on the picnic and on our own vision at ILLUME we recognize that we need to broaden the conversation to include all forms of diversity.

We will be continuing this conversation and encourage you to join us by sharing your thoughts on the topic of #womeninenergy and #diversityinenergy through twitter, our blog (we love the idea of guest posts!), in conversation at events and conference and, in your own organizations. How have you seen these issues addressed (or not addressed) in your experience of the industry?  What benefits do you believe our industry will see as a result of increased diversity? What are practical steps that every person can take to improve the diversity in the field?  Let’s tackle these critical questions together!