Since March 8 was International Women’s Day, it’s a good time to point out that women have had and continue to play key roles in the energy arena. Looking back, women invented the electric water heater, the modern refrigerator and the solar-heated home. As reported in a post by Sunrun, Dr. Maria Telkes, the Hungarian scientist, invented the thermoelectric power generator in 1947 to provide and store heat on sunless days. This was deployed in the first 100 percent solar-powered house that she designed with architect Eleanor Raymond. Today Lynn Jurich is the CEO of Sunrun, one of the largest residential solar companies in the U.S. with 3,000 employees; and, she is named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs.

Additionally, the most influential U.S. solar associations are headed by women. Some include: the Smart Electric Power Alliance that works on solar at the utility and community scale headed by Julia HammThe Solar Foundation that implements the annual National Solar Jobs Census and other industry research lead by Andrea Luecke (formerly with Milwaukee Shines); the American Solar Energy Society the solar industry professional organization that publishes SolarToday with CEO Carly Rixham; and most recently, the Solar Energy Industries Association with Abby Ross Hopper as president and CEO. Also, the executive director of solar energy international is Kathy Swartz. While these women are in leadership positions, overall women as a percentage of the solar workforce is low but has grown from 18.7 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2016.

STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) education starting as soon as early childhood is important to provide the foundation for both women and men to move into the job market of the rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

Sherrie Gruder