[The entire workforce pipeline from kindergarten to mid-life and beyond]
Our initiatives so far on this goal have been to create Solar Summer Camps for young girls. This year we taught 96 girls (ages 8 to 16) about solar through partnerships with both Girls Build and ChickTech in Portland. POWER hosted all-day solar camps that taught on-roof solar installation skills, how solar cells and electric circuits work, and had them power toys, such as a bubble maker, straight from the sun! Specifically for the ChickTech camp, we taught the girls soldering and they created their own USB solar-powered chargers to take home.
We are currently discussing many other initiatives that could support other portions of the workforce pipeline and are actively working with other organizations and their initiatives to amplify results all around.
[Building the network and amplifying the conversation]
We welcome women from all over Oregon into our group and our conversations. We hold monthly women-only networking events and we have remote members video in. We support the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association’s quarterly roundtable discussions on women in solar that include both men and women in the conversation. The point here is just to invite as many perspectives to the conversation as possible, to build up a strong network of women and male allies.
[From the inside out and from the outside in]
There are a few different ways to look at “empowerment” of women in this industry and our group has chosen to focus on two.
The more traditional perspective on empowerment places an emphasis on mentorship. Helping women become more confident, to speak up, to advocate for better pay and more responsibility, to help women negotiate better. Of course, this is all wonderful. The point is that the focus is on improving the skillset of the women.
To this effect, we have mentoring and support between women. It has remained informal because it has happened so naturally. Women have helped one another practice for interviews, negotiate raises, and find new, better-paying jobs. This has happened several times over the past 6 months. We are also engaging in conversations with the committee at SEIA that has created a focused series on this style of empowerment.
But what happens when you already have incredible, confident, well-spoken women who know how to negotiate well that still feel as though they are not able to reach their full potential within their given industry? That is when the focus needs to be on how the industry as a whole can improve itself to empower women and increase inclusivity at the leadership level.
This empowerment goal is more abstract and something that we are actively engaging in discussions round — we are going to see how effective we can be in our local industry. We are lucky to be centered in an area that is open to change. We have fantastic support from OSEIA and are able to give input on the Oregon Solar Energy Conference – and owners of local solar installation and manufacturing companies have shown their support as well. Quarterly roundtable events that also include men from the industry will continue to offer insight and reinforcement from male allies. It is within this welcoming environment that we will be able to hatch some pilot programs and watch the ripple effects they create.