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The Wave of Change: Women, Solar, and an Evolving Industry

Monday, Mar 08 2021

SEIA Comms Team
Nextracker solar worker

Photo courtesy of Nextracker

As we celebrate the inauguration of Vice President Harris and other talented women tapped to lead agencies and offices throughout the Biden Administration, we also want to honor the incredible women working in the solar industry.

Women continue to be underrepresented in science- and technology-focused fields, and the solar industry is no different. We still have a long way to go, so it's important that we use data to measure changing demographics in our industry, which reflect our progress toward creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.

According to the U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, women represented only 26% of the solar workforce in 2019. Like many other industries, women also experience a pay gap. Women in solar make 74 cents on the dollar compared to men and are less likely to report that they have successfully moved up the career ladder.

Other data highlights the gender disparities that exist — only 28% of women in the solar industry hold manager, director, or president-level positions, and the differences are even more stark for women of color. A McKinsey & Company’s 2020 Women in the Workplace report found that white women in corporate America hold 23% of senior vice president roles and 19% of c-suite roles, compared to women of color at 5% and 3% respectively.

Women of color in the solar industry report that they often have to prove their competence, and that they face challenges connecting to those in charge of hiring decisions. Data from the industry’s diversity study reflects this trend—three of the top five recruitment methods used by study respondents relied on personal and professional networks to fill open positions.

We also know that women have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. McKinsey’s study found that up to two million women are considering leaving the workforce due to pandemic-related challenges, meaning even fewer women may be available to take on leadership roles throughout corporate America.

To address these and many other challenges, the solar industry is doubling down on resources that can help companies welcome more women and other underrepresented groups to our workforce and ensure they have opportunities to advance and succeed.

In 2019, SEIA created the Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry to help solar companies identify approaches that can lead to a more inclusive work environment. Now SEIA is building on this effort by developing a first-of-its kind diversity certification program for the solar industry. The program provides resources and guidance for companies as they put these best practices in place and enables them to report on their progress, delivering much needed metrics back to SEIA for further insights and analysis.

This new program will walk companies through a set of internal and external activities — everything from offering workplace flexibility programs to reporting on the number of low- to moderate-income customers or clients served — to reform or expand on current company practices that impact employees’ experiences as well as broader community engagement and impact. For companies that need additional support, the program provides templates and other resources needed to successfully complete the activities. As companies participate and excel in the program, they will earn recognition for their progress. This incentive structure will encourage broad participation and reward companies that are working in earnest to serve their communities and attract, hire, promote, and retain diverse talent.

SEIA will be beta testing the program later this year and hopes to roll it out to a broader audience in fall 2021. The certification program is just one of the many activities SEIA and our industry partners are taking to make real progress. It’s our responsibility to represent and lead the solar industry, and we will continue to advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice for all solar workers.

Throughout Women’s History Month, will be sharing the experiences and advice of women in the industry.

We hope you will join us as we celebrate their contributions.

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