‘Paternity leave policies are strongly correlated with the female share of board seats’


Renewables can be considered generally open to women, the latter making up 40% of the full-time workforce in solar PV, for example. Yet, there are still a lot of invisible barriers that leave only 17% of senior management roles in the industry to women, according to the Solar PV: A gender perspective, IRENA (2022) report.

Social and cultural perceptions of gender roles always top the list of such barriers, but a personal revelation I have experienced is that some of these barriers are self-imposed. So, women themselves are very much in charge of bringing those down and embracing their true growth potential.

One such self-imposed barrier stems from the socially constructed gender role of women as primary caregivers and supporters. We are socialized from a very early age not to promote our interests and instead focus on the needs of others. When it comes to the workplace, however, the ability to claim credit for your work and ask for new roles and responsibilities requires a healthy dose of self-promotion, too.

Here comes the tricky part. Women who assertively pursue their ambitions and promote their interests may be penalized for not conforming to social expectations of how women should act. In other words, instead of climbing the career ladder, you might end up being labeled as bitchy or see your work devalued by colleagues. That is why, to me, the strong presence of women on company boards and in senior management roles is the best indicator of an organization’s ability to create an inclusive work environment. Much more so than any carefully curated environmental, social and governance (ESG) report, I dare say.

What do we need to do to nurture such an environment? A surprising best practice to empower women that I recently found out about through a Peterson/EY research, is paternity leave policies. Whether national or corporate, paternity leave policies are strongly correlated with the female share of board seats, in other words, policies that allow childcare needs to be met but do not place the burden of care explicitly on women increase the chances that women can build the business acumen and professional contacts necessary to qualify for a corporate board.

Cultivating social and corporate acceptance and encouragement of women's active pursuit of leading, not supporting roles, can only benefit organizations and society as a whole, especially during crisis times.

There is a curious research on biobehavioral responses to stress in females by Shelley Taylor. It argues that the “fight-or-flight” response to stress in females is often characterised by a “tend-and-befriend” approach. Tending involves nurturing activities promoting safety and reducing stress while befriending refers to the creation and maintenance of supportive social networks.

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Turns out, this ability to empathize and tune in to other people's needs facilitates the development of the social skills needed to weave a support network of close and loose relationships that can often make the difference between a story of success or a failure in business and in life.

In the words of Oscar Wilde: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Leadership, as well as definitions of success, come in all shapes and sizes. So, dear ladies, here is my advice on career development: embrace your complexity and have the courage to always be earnest to yourself about what you really want. Then, commit and go for it!

Lead, tend or befriend, but always shine together!

Mariyana Yaneva is currently serving as Vice Chair at the Association for production, storage and trading with electricity (APSTE) while also heading business development at design & engineering consultancy Renergy in Sofia, Bulgaria. She has more than 12 years of experience in various leadership roles in business development and investment in wind, solar and energy storage projects. Mariyana is now focusing her energy on developing strategies for greater integration of renewable energy into the electricity mix, including corporate sourcing of renewable energy (PPAs) and flexibility solutions such as storage, demand response and smart grids.

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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