We Build: Women Power + Solar Power

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May 23, 2017
We Build volunteers pose in front of a We Build banner

“Groups of women are kind of the best when it comes to getting things done efficiently and effectively,” said Nicole Steele, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, kicking off GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic’s first We Build. We Build is an all-women’s solar installation, part of GRID Alternatives’ national Women in Solar Program, working to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar industry by providing pathways to technical careers for women, highlighting the voices of women of color in the industry, and providing national leadership on solar workforce diversity.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sponsored the solar installation. “SEIA is so proud to sponsor this event, because we believe strongly that diversity, inclusion, and equity are the fundamental cornerstones of making solar the most important part of our energy portfolio,” said Abby Hopper, President and CEO of SEIA. Eight women volunteers joined GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic on a roof in DC to install ten solar panels and set up the electrical side of the system. The women represented many organizations across the industry, including SEIA, Alpha Solar Group, Advanced Energy Economy, SunRun, and EarthSpark International. Each woman came from a different background bringing unique talents to the install, and were united through the same passion and interest: solar. 

Two volunteers carry a solar panel
We Build volunteers Rachel and Shelly carry a solar panel
“I want to have a thorough understanding of this industry I advocate for,” explained Rachel Goldstein, an employee of SEIA. Like many of the women, she works with solar behind the scenes, but this was her first time actually installing solar on a roof. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, mainly because it was all women. We trusted each other and it was so collaborative,” said Rachel Carillo, another volunteer.  This is the purpose of an all women’s build. We Build events aim to empower women while allowing them to network with their peers. “It’s great to be in a supportive, friendly space with so many women engaged in the solar industry, and who are committed to low-income solar access,” explained Nicole Sitaraman from SunRun.

The solar will benefit homeowner Bernice Rink, a single woman living on a fixed income, who championed “Women Power!” throughout the day, and hosted everyone in her backyard with food and shade. “Without this program, persons like myself, living on a fixed income, would not be able to afford this. Which means they would have to make a choice between paying their light bill, or getting their medication,” said Bernice Rink.

Four volunteers pose on the roof of the home while installing solar
Four We Build volunteers take a break from installing solar
The one day event aims to increase women’s presence in the solar industry, which currently only makes up 28% of the solar workforce based on The Solar Foundation's 2016 National Solar Job Census.  A month earlier, SEIA organized a Women’s Empowerment: Leaders in Energy East Coast Summit which included panel topics ranging from increasing diversity in the workforce to encouraging women to run of office and careers in public service.  Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades penetrating job sectors previously employed almost exclusively by men, however there has been very little progress in the gender integration of work according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. With the recent momentum of events advocating and empowering women, there’s still more work to do in addressing the challenges women face in career advancement and entrance to male-dominated fields. GRID Alternatives hopes initiatives like We Build can be significantly impactful for women.

Together, these women selflessly gave up a Saturday to install solar, and together, they installed a 2.85 kW solar system, that will soon save homeowner Rink $600 a year on her electric bills. Even though they individually had not installed solar before, they finished installing the system in record time. When women work together, they are unstoppable.  

Under supervision of Nadine, a volunteer connects a solar panel to an inverter
We Build volunteer Rachel connect a solar panel to an inverter
See the speaking event here.

See more pictures from the event here.

Read the press release here. 

Learn more about We Build and GRID’s other programs that empower women in the solar industry.

Support GRID Mid-Atlantic’s Women in Solar program with a donation today!