Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in the Clean Energy Industry
The U.S. solar industry experienced record growth last year as costs plummeted for the tenth year in a row. Average prices have fallen by more than 70% over the last decade. At the end of 2019, the industry employed nearly 250,000 workers across the 50 states. Since 2014, solar employment has increased 44%, which is about five times faster than job growth in the U.S. economy overall.
Despite this rapid growth, African American employees make up only 7.6% of the solar workforce, compared to 14% of the U.S. workforce overall. Additionally, female representation in the solar energy sector is far behind the national average. Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, yet only represent 26% of the solar workforce, which is down slightly from previous years.
Furthermore, there is a vast underrepresentation of women and people of color at senior executive levels. While the issue is not unique to the solar industry, the gap is more pronounced for certain groups. A McKinsey & Company study found that across all industries, African Americans held 4% of senior executive positions, which compares to just 2% at solar companies. Women held 22% of senior executive positions in all industries, which compares to just 20% in solar.
While some efforts are being made to increase representation of women and minorities in the clean energy industry, the industry still has a lot of work to do. According to 90% of solar employees surveyed by the Solar Foundation last year, formal and informal mentorship is critical to career advancement, yet only 37% of solar companies specifically offer mentorship opportunities. This is a significant issue, as mentorship programs have been proven to increase Asian women & Hispanic women in management by 24% across 800 U.S. firms, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Better job performance and decreased turnover
Beyond achieving adequate representation of women and minorities, the clean energy industry also has a great deal of work to do to foster greater inclusion within organizations. For example, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that 65% of women in the wind sector perceive gender-related barriers at work, compared with just 34% of men. In addition to being a moral issue, this is also a crucial business issue for clean energy companies, as a high sense of belonging among staff is linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance and a 50% drop in turnover risk. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.
As a first step to address the glaring lack of diversity, equity and inclusion within clean energy, leaders from Capital Dynamics, Cypress Creek Renewables, EDF Renewables, Generate Capital, Mosaic, Nautilus Solar Energy, New Columbia Solar, Nextracker, Volt Energy, Sol Systems, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Foundation have come together to form the Renewables Forward Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to share experiences, evaluate best practices and identify concrete ways to work together to drive positive change. Dylan Green is proud to be partnering with many of these organizations to promote greater diversity, equity and inclusion within clean energy.