On International Women’s Day, US President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council. The council, which was formerly called the White House Council on Women and Girls under the Obama administration, seeks to advance the equality of opportunity while simultaneously combating systematic biases and discrimination against women. The council plans to do this by coordinating federal government efforts to increase economic support, promote gender equity in leadership, prevent all forms of gender-based violence and bolster initiatives to empower women, both domestically and internationally. Although the election of Kamala Harris as the first female vice president in American history disrupted gender norms, the revival of this council serves as a salient reminder that there is still much to do to combat systemic biases and advance gender equality.
The federal government is not alone in its endeavor to combating gender inequity. Renewable energy has proven to be an industry where there is significant potential to break institutional biases. The renewable energy workforce, for example, comprises 32% women, whereas the larger energy sector workforce only employs 22% women. Although this is a notable start, these numbers illustrate that there is still progress to be made in achieving gender equality across industries and that these goals should be prioritized moving forward.
The renewable energy industry has several initiatives prioritizing gender equality that should continue to be lauded and supported. One such program is the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) program, which supports the educational, professional development and advancement of women in the renewable energy sector with the aspiration of combating systemic inequities. The Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE) Network is a network of women working in renewable energy and combating existing structural gender inequities that could be exacerbated by the consequences of climate change. The Clean Energy Council’s Women in Renewables initiative serves as a platform to champion women working in renewable energy as they advance to become leaders of industry. Other notable programs and initiatives include:
- Powered by Women, which consults with renewable energy companies on how they can sustainably build growth and close gender gaps at their respective organizations.
- The Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit supporting female or minority-owned startups aspiring to innovate in the realm of clean energy and sustainability.
- The American Solar Energy Society, which is recognizing women who have contributed extraordinary developments to the technological developments or wide-spread advancement of solar energy.
- The Department of Energy, which has sought to recruit more women into the clean energy field and recognize accomplished women for their contributions and leadership through the US Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Initiative.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association, which has developed the Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry, aims to build a diverse workforce by providing guidance to companies as they navigate diversity and inclusion efforts.
The establishment of the Gender Policy Council displays a commitment by the United States to ensure that gender equality efforts are at the forefront of decision-making domestically and abroad, across multiple industries. In addition to naming two co-chairs, the council will comprise leaders from several agencies, including the secretary of energy, secretary of transportation, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The array of individuals selected for the council will directly impact the renewable energy industry, as many of these offices are working in tandem to promote clean energy initiatives.
These efforts across industries and governments illustrate the promise and impact that the renewable energy sector has on empowering women. Only by advocating for the empowerment of all women, can we secure a safer, more renewable-energy-powered planet.