‘I worked in notably biassed teams, both in terms of gender and age’

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In many ways, the solar and energy storage sector tends to be more open to women compared to some traditional industries. And curiously enough, the green hydrogen sector is notorious for having a high female representation, even at a management level.

In my opinion, this is partly due to its relatively young and innovative nature. Some essential aspects of the renewable energy industry still depend and unfold from research and development, environmentalism and business, which are sectors typically less gender biassed than technology. Additionally, the industry's focus on sustainability and its address to global energy welfare often attracts individuals passionate about making a positive impact, regardless of gender.

However, there are still barriers and challenges that women may face in this sector, including a minor representation in leadership roles. I believe diversity enriches and so, organizations and industry stakeholders have lots to gain by explicitly and outspokenly prioritizing equity and inclusion to create a more inclusive environment for women and other underrepresented groups.

Personally, and especially at the beginning of my career, I worked in notably biassed teams, both in terms of gender and age. This environment was a bit unsettling for me. However, it’s from those early experiences that I drew the most useful emotional tools to navigate my future. First and foremost, I learned that confidence stems from knowledge but also the importance of being kind to oneself, setting achievable goals within each situation, owning the small things one does right, and advancing with steady but baby steps. With those principles under my belt, I was able to contain the apprehension of being out of place that an underrepresented group has to deal with.

As a society, I believe we are aware of these facts and are acting upon them. As a mother, I am conscious of outreach and educational STEM initiatives that seek to approach female role models in male-dominated technical fields to our youngsters as early as secondary school. This is an excellent way to excite the next generation and support their motivation in case they lack profiles to identify with.

But we must reach beyond that. Diversity and Inclusion are worth the central stage in a company's hiring practices and board representation. It is not just about enabling a work-life balance, it is about promoting it and exemplifying it at all levels challenging stereotypes.

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So, to anybody currently entering the industry or even just starting their studies, I would advise you to embrace the chance to live, learn and grow. Be open-minded and a free-thinker, but better yet, be a new-doer. Own your differences, for that is the kind of individualism that enriches and grows. The world would turn faster and in a better direction if we don’t just hop onto the wheel but rather steer it with passionate, new, unbiased ideas to a greener and more equitable future.

Over her nearly 20-year career, María journeyed from Earth Climate Research to Product design and manufacturing of Green Hydrogen Electrolyzers and lately Business and Project Development for Energy Storage Solutions, with main focus on Battery Systems. Currently, María serves as the Head of Projects at BayWa r.e. Iberia. She is a passionate advocate for a sustainable, efficient, and renewable future. Actively promoting energy transition on social media, she draws upon her knowledge of technology, industry needs, and market realities. For María, the energy transition represents an opportunity for national economic development, growth, and balance—good for the planet and good for each of us.

Interested in joining María Santa Maria 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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