Pull back the curtain on climate leadership, and you’ll see women in power. From the author of the country’s leading clean car standards, to the top administrator of the most ambitious climate policy in the nation (California’s AB32), to the scientists and entrepreneurs developing and deploying the advanced technologies driving the nation’s low-carbon economy, women are taking charge of the clean energy sector like never before.
Women have always been on the frontlines of our country’s toughest environmental challenges — including Rachel Carson, who galvanized the country with her exposé of pesticides in Silent Spring, and Hazel Johnson, the ‘Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement,’ who fought against toxic dumping in her own Southeast Chicago community.
But women have not always dominated the energy sector.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, the story of energy has traditionally been written by innovative men like Thomas Edison and George Mitchell, who invented and invested in the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of the 20th century. Today, women are rewriting the history books, spearheading a new era of leadership in the clean energy economy.
One might argue that women’s rise in the clean energy sector shares similarities with the industry’s own evolution. By proving competitive in the marketplace, clean energy over the last few decades has been successfully digging out of the pigeonhole that it is niche, small-scale, and, well, the underdog. Bucking the status quo, women are beginning to penetrate clean-energy industries at a growing rate—creating start-ups, climbing the ranks in large cleantech companies, and investing in the technologies of the future. Renewable energy has been the fastest growing segment of the power industry at the same time that women-owned businesses are growing at twice the national average, and we are seeing these trends converge.
Yet, female leadership extends far beyond the boardroom. Women are also championing forward-thinking climate and energy policies as elected leaders, making critical technological breakthroughs in the labs and hitting the pavement to rally their communities in demanding clean air and smart, livable cities.
Curbing climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy is about more than just reducing carbon emissions; it’s about investing in a new and more vibrant economic future for us all. In honor of Women’s History Month, I am embarking on a journey to explore Women in Power, recognizing some of today’s bold female leaders ushering in a prosperous, low-carbon economy and shattering the glass ceiling on the way. Stay tuned.
This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.