‘I had a severe case of imposter syndrome’


There are cases where women have faced barriers to development and progression in their careers.  So far, I have been very lucky, and honestly, the only barriers in my way would have more to do with my own insecurities.  My pathway into renewables and beginning in the UK solar industry came after a few years of a career break to have children, and I was returning to work.  I had been at a relatively senior level in my career before children and I was well qualified to do the job I was coming in to do. My own self-doubt could have really held me back as I had a severe case of imposter syndrome.  I was entering a company that was at the forefront of its sector, treated its employees well and encouraged challenge at all levels by empowering everyone with access to company data.  I was inspired by this approach and by the owner and the knowledge and insight he shared.  The only potential barrier in my way was myself.  I had a quiet word with myself on several occasions when those waves of self-doubt crept up! But that was it, I was in, and despite the challenges that we are facing here, the solar bug had well and truly taken hold.

The WiSEu members are part of something quite unique in the solar industry and I truly believe that we are a family of trailblazers.  There is heritage in the industry that is suffering from a reputation borne out of the more traditional energy sectors, and for that reason, some of the old-fashioned ways of thinking have filtered in.  Solar with a more modern mindset is driving the change and we are leading the way on gender balance. I am proud to work in this industry and what I have always advocated for is balance. It should never be “who is the best male/female for the job?” simply, who is the best person.  At a grassroots level, just like in sports, we need to highlight to the younger generation that this is an industry for everyone, with roles and careers for anything from engineering to legal to marketing & sales.  A company with a diverse workforce is so much more effective, too.  For anyone who isn’t familiar, the facts and data are there to prove it.  Have a gender-balanced workforce and your profits will increase.

The simple answer to the time it’s taking for change is that we are not alone in this. Let me explain. The lack of gender balance in leadership positions is not solar-specific and industries that have been male-dominated for decades are going to naturally take longer to shift. That’s just a fact. Some roles need to become available and new ways of working (and thinking) that need to be addressed.  I do believe the tide is turning and solar is a leading industry of this change.  Females are at least visible now.  Conference organizers, media an others are all realizing their part to play in this, and the ones that value authentic & credible content are organizing panels and agendas that feature female CEOs, Company owners, and Engineering Directors, among others.

It’s up to every one of us to play our part in building a culture in our own businesses that encourages younger people to join as well as those from other industries. The education sector needs support to understand more about the diverse careers within renewable energy.  The work going on to drive apprenticeships and internships is a stepping stone in the right direction, but does a young twentysomething woman studying a law degree have their eyes set on solar as a career path?  We need the faces and female leaders of today at the forefront so that we attract the talent of tomorrow.  Inspiring the future generation of solar leaders is what we should be focussing on to really affect change.

Find your people.  Use your contacts and network.  We are in a world now, both in our personal and professional lives, where nothing and no one is out of reach. Stay in contact with people who build you up, and be the person who inspires others.  The solar industry is one where your values and purpose can come alive.  We also know that the new generation of workforce demands much more of a work/life balance than ever before but you must be patient and resilient.   Seek out a solid network that you trust and can be open and honest with, and you will find that this is an industry and doorway to a career that can literally light up your life – come on in!

Claire Gardner is Solis’ Marketing Manager for Europe and has over 20 years in marketing working for blue chip companies across retail, FMCG, B2C and B2B.  With a career in solar that began with the UK’s largest solar distributor in 2012, she gained invaluable cross-category knowledge to take to Solis.  She is a “customer first” common sense marketeer with no time for messaging without authenticity.  She is passionate about aligning personal and professional purpose with a leadership style that is collaborative and empowering, advocating a culture of openness to challenge and debate.

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


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