Breaking down barriers: getting more women into solar


July 17, 2014

Just across the street from Intersolar North America, where over 17,000 people from all over the globe came to check out the newest trends and gadgets in solar, GRID gathered together a group of leading women professionals for an intimate panel discussion on the challenge of integrating more women into an industry that has been dominated by men.

“I was one of eight girls in a batch of 400 [engineering] students,” Rohini Raghunathan, Head of Corporate Development at SunEdison, told a crowd of around 60 (mostly) women. “Your barriers start right there.”

But neither Ms. Raghunathan nor any of the other panelists were deterred by the barriers. Helen Burt, Senior VP and Chief Customer Officer at PG&E, talked about working her way up from a customer service representative in Texas. “Being open to opportunities is the secret” she told the group. “All of us now have an obligation to reach out a hand and help others enter the industry.”

The discussion was part of GRID Alternatives’ National Women in Solar Initiative, a partnership with SunEdison to bring more women into the solar industry and support their professional growth. It was one of several events that GRID Alternatives hosted or participated in during Intersolar, including Solar Summer Happy Hour, co-hosted with Women in Cleantech & Sustainability and Solar Marketing Group, and a Women in Renewables Forum hosted by American Solar Energy Society's “Solar 2014.”  Other panelists included Koralie Hill, General Superintendent at Sun Light & Power, and GRID’s own co-founder and CEO Erica Mackie, who moderated the discussion.

"The panelists offered practical and inspirational advice not only for the job market, but for women in general,” said Michaela Ruppert, who was in the audience. “Seeing a panel of women in a field that is predominantly men is a reminder that the rules are changing and we can do whatever we want.”

Check out the full recording to the left and click here to read an article from PV Solar Report. For more career advice, tune into our Women in Solar Webinar Series August 6, 11-noon PST, for a discussion with some of the top women in solar sales, marketing and business development.