‘During my career, I had to deal with many sexist attitudes’


Solar energy, as a young sector in constant evolution, promotes gender equality and equal opportunities for career development. The engineering sector has been traditionally male-dominated, but now we are not only looking for engineers to perform the necessary tasks in managing renewable energy assets. There is a demand for women with backgrounds in legal, administrative, financial, and specific engineering disciplines, with a higher percentage of female students in fields such as environment or chemistry.

Roles are no longer 100% focused on an academic profile but also seek a fit of “soft skills” that are natural to many women, such as resilience, adaptability, time control, conflict management, creativity, and cognitive flexibility. Asset management is an area with many opportunities for different profiles, an excellent opportunity for women in the sector and a significant personal development opportunity for any individual. Dynamic profiles are sought, eager to learn, resilient and organized, and this is not limited to men or women. A lot of work is being done to encourage more women to apply for the jobs we offer and to achieve gender balance.

One of the particular challenges women face is the perfectionism pitfall and self-confidence, which can lead them to be self-limiting and impact career development. Nevertheless, more women are motivated to apply for certain roles as we see more women in leadership positions. Female leaders are more aware of these internal barriers and, in general, facilitate the entry of more diverse profiles, positively impacting working dynamics.

During my career, I had to deal with many sexist attitudes, and probably because I am a woman, they assumed that I had less technical knowledge. Those experiences pushed me to become stronger. I have always tried to do the work I love and pursue the career I love by overcoming these barriers and using them as stepping stones to move forward. But we also face difficulties in establishing ourselves at higher levels. The role of women in senior technical leadership roles is still rare. These roles are very much associated with male profiles, and it is again this perception that men are more knowledgeable. Although efforts have been made recently in the industry to give equal opportunities to both men and women, we still have plenty of work to do. Organizational efforts are critical in aspects such as maternity. I was promoted while on maternity leave. For Sonnedix, inclusion and diversity are fundamental pillars.

Unfortunately, we will continue to suffer from this perception of being ‘bossy’ or suffer the ‘authority gap’, at least until we achieve the desired gender balance. I have a strong character, which makes me assert myself, especially after having experienced various sexist situations in a male-dominated sector. That doesn't mean that I don't have insecurities, weaknesses, and difficult moments as any leader would. I must say that I also had very positive experiences, especially at Sonnedix. My mentor is a man and I think his vision is absolutely right in terms of integration and development.

We have to start the change from the top. Gender equality in management and board positions must be achieved and perceived as a natural development that begins in early career stages. We need to open up the positions to more general descriptions and be willing to train different profiles. We must encourage and support each other to overcome self-limiting barriers, break our own glass ceilings, and believe in ourselves. Equality policies in companies are necessary and we need to keep in mind the goal of balance, making sure they do not lead to favoritism one way or another. I believe in equal opportunities and fair rewards regardless of gender.

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I always convey the following mantra to new joiners: learn, gain experience, visualize what you want, go for it, and be patient. Short-term rewards are a problem of today's generation. The path is shaped by walking, and experience is made by living. Perseveer and visualise what you want. Work, be constant, and don't give up in the face of difficulties. Look for inspiration. It will help you overcome difficult times and move forward. Work is a part of your life, but don't let it be your whole life. And especially for this sector, we (all of us) have to understand that we have to be flexible, resilient, always willing to learn, and open to creativity.

Author: Carolina Nester

With over seventeen years of experience in the PV sector, Carolina's career began in 2007 as a solar module manufacturing Process Engineer spanning the field of solar installation permitting, design, construction management, commissioning and subsequent supervision and control of solar assets. In 2012, she diversified her experience in PV consulting, supporting the development and management of net metering solar installations. The knowledge gained over the years allowed her to transition to Asset Management, covering the Technical and Commercial Asset Management scope. Since joining Sonnedix in 2017, her role has evolved into Head of Operations for Iberia. She is responsible for the overall performance, operation and optimization of a €350 million renewable asset portfolio. She holds an industrial mechanical engineering degree from Universidad Politécnica of Valencia.

Interested in joining Carolina Nester and other women industry leaders and experts at Women in Solar Europe? Find out more: www.wiseu.network

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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