‘More women in hiring positions will ensure more women will be hired’

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As a law student, I came across an article on smart grid regulation in the EU. The complexity of an electricity system with fluctuating energy sources drew my attention. I wrote my master's thesis about the subject and was hooked. I wanted to work in the renewable energy sector; I wanted to make an impact. It could be as simple as that.

Working for a company that is truly mission-driven has helped me find my path in the sector. In my career, I have had and still have inspiring people around me who have mentored me, coached me, and given me feedback. Receiving guidance from these experienced men and women helped me to grow and to take the right steps.

The energy sector in general, is male-dominated. In my experience, the solar sector is not very different. I do feel that the complete renewable energy sector could use more female energy. I feel that we will have to work more together as people and organizations to overcome the system challenges we are and will be facing. Also, listening to and taking along society on our path to fossil freedom is of the essence. Being open to new solutions, ideas, and business models will keep us on that path.

However, I found that establishing myself in a male-dominated sector was not always easy. Sometimes it felt as if there was a magnifying glass on how I said things, how I presented myself, how I dressed. It sometimes felt as if I should say something ten times, while my male colleagues would be successful when stating it one time. I would love for younger women to have a different experience.

The challenge here is that if you are in a male-dominated sector, these males typically choose people like them in the hiring processes. This is just a human thing to do. The first thing would be to acknowledge this and be open to diversity. I see that quite some companies, like Vattenfall, are focussing on diversity. So the first steps are taken, but I feel we still have a long way to go. I would also like to encourage the many inspiring and good women in the sector to dare to take a leading position. More women in hiring positions will ensure more women will be hired. But let’s not fall into the trap of only hiring women because of a key performance indicator (KPI) to be reached. It is really all about getting together a mix of people, a mix of energy, a mix of backgrounds, a mix of cultures and a mix of experiences.

I would say to younger colleagues entering this industry to surround themselves with different people. People that are not just like you. We need this variety of views, insights and ways of working to tackle the challenges ahead. And take a mentor. Or two, or three. Talk about your experiences and find guidance.

Annemarie Schouten is heading the solar development team of Vattenfall in the Netherlands. She is also active in the board of sector association Holland Solar, responsible for ground-mounted and floating solar. Annemarie has had a leading role in creating amongst others the Holland Solar code of conduct for developing ground-mounted PV installations. This in combination with an in-depth knowledge of developing solar parks and her intrinsic interest in innovation, technology and renewable energy, ensures that she knows what it takes to create future proof solar projects. Annemarie has a legal and business background and is motivated to work together to take the energy transition to the next level.

Interested in joining Annemarie Schouten 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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