Diversity challenges within the solar industry

As the renewable energy market continues to grow, solar jobs are rising rapidly, with a number of new opportunities emerging from installation through management. Kerene Taylor of nonprofit organization WE ACT for Environmental Justice, explains that there are multiple opportunities available in the solar market, but, unfortunately, diversity within the industry isn’t reflective of our society.

Findings in a recent report from the Solar Foundation shows women make up approximately one-quarter of the solar workforce. The report does emphasize that there are a large number of businesses are working on improving the representation of women in the solar market.

Industry leaders today are selecting diversity, inclusion, and equity as key business priorities. Studies indicate that diversity does generate more creativity, cooperation, and innovation in the workplace. Furthermore, the latest Solar Foundation report states that 26% of solar businesses believe it was very challenging to hire qualified workers during the last year, an 18% increase from the previous year. A stronger focus on diversity and inclusion is critical in order for the solar market to develop a skilled, innovative and competitive workforce for the future.

Tayloe states that more organizations are working to promote diversity, encouraging more people to get involved in the solar industry and benefit from economic opportunities provided. While the solar industry has made some good progress in certain areas, there are still considerable gaps relating to salaries, leadership and job satisfaction that need to be filled.

Key Survey Findings:

• Men are more likely to be represented at the Manager, Director, President (MDP) level than women. In the solar industry, 37% of men hold MDP-level positions and only 28% of women do. These results are similar to the 2017 findings in the previous U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study.

• Hispanic or Latino respondents are significantly more likely to hold MDPlevel positions compared to non-Hispanic respondents. Black or African American respondents are slightly less likely to hold MDP-level positions than white respondents, but the difference is within the margin of error.

• When the MDP level is broken down to include only executive-level positions, the average firm reported its senior executives are all white men. Among all senior executives reported by solar firms, 88% are white and 80% are men, presenting a pronounced lack of diversity across gender, ethnicity, and race at the executive level.

Source: Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019: The Solar Foundation