A group of a couple dozen women and a few men gathered on Wednesday at Intersolar for a breakfast celebrating the launch of Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE). The non-profit was formerly known as Women of Wind Energy (WoWE), but has rebranded to serve all renewable energy sectors.
Some attendees came to check out the new organization. But most came to celebrate women in solar and meet new people who share a commitment to advancing women in clean energy.
“I’ve been outnumbered in the workplace for my entire career,” said Teresa Zhang, VP of operations at Folsom Labs. She said she wants to help other women feel a sense of belonging that’s sometimes missing for women in the industry.
Sara Mills, a project manager at Ulteig, belongs to a network of women in solar in Denver, but didn’t know this national group existed before the event. Her Denver group is planning a camping trip later this year. She said she was disappointed that there were fewer women at Intersolar than she usually sees at Solar Power International.
Kate Bowman, solar project coordinator at Utah Clean Energy, said there is a “strong contingent of smart women” in the solar industry, and it’s important to have events like these to celebrate their achievements.
Alison Brown, owner of engineering company Flux Energy Systems, smiled for the camera with a sign reading “This is what an engineer looks like.” Her company is a team of three, and the two other engineers are men.
“I would hire more women if they applied,” Brown said. She believes more girls are getting into STEM fields, but still aren’t drawn to engineering and construction fields in large numbers. She’s working to change this by volunteering for an after-school program put on by Loyola Marymount that helps to teach girls about STEM fields.
WRISE leaders hope to continue the momentum and connections through the “Find Her Keep Her” initiative, and by collecting personal stories about women in solar to help address common roadblocks to women entering and staying in the solar industry.