GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, a subsidiary of the US’ largest non-profit solar installer, is launching its national Women in Solar programme – an effort to increase gender diversity in the solar supply chain – with the help of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
To kick off the programme, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic hosted its first all-women’s solar build at the weekend, named the ‘We Build’ event, sponsored by the SEIA. The programme is a concerted effort to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive solar industry by providing pathways to technical careers for women, and expanding access to women of colour in the industry.
“Being able to participate in today’s We Build means a lot to me both personally and professionally,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Expanding diversity within our industry and customer base continues to be one of my top priorities. The benefits solar provides, both through well-paying jobs and cleaner air, deserve to be enjoyed by everyone – gender, race, socioeconomic class aside. Through initiatives like this one, our industry is leading the way to a more inclusive society.”
Ross Hopper highlighted to PV Tech back during her appointment in January that one of her key priorities as new SEIA leader was to make US solar more inclusive.
With solar jobs growing at a rate of 20% a year, it is more crucial than over for women to join and contribute to the workforce. This point is more poignant than it has been in the past when the industry was much smaller. Whilst on the quest of becoming mainstream, solar is still very much a male-dominated industry. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2016 National Solar Job Census, women account for 28% of the solar workforce, and more opportunities need to be cultivated in order to engage more women, which is what the National Women in Solar programme aims to do.
Hopper’s appointment itself was significant in that having another woman in a senior and very prominent role will help broaden the appeal of solar and increase its talent pool, as she joined other prominent industry women including Julia Hamm of SEPA, CalSEIA’s Bernadette del Chiaro and The Solar Foundation’s Andrea Luecke.
“Our mission at GRID is to make this new clean economy accessible to everyone. As part of that mission, we strive to connect individuals of diverse backgrounds, races, and genders to training and career opportunities,” said Nicole Steele, executive director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, “’We Build’ is all about providing women a platform to network and advance within the solar industry.”