In Pursuit Of Gender Diversity In The PV Sector
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30 April, 2020

Gender inequality remains a key challenge in the world today. In fact, the United Nations has dedicated one of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to the issue.

Research shows that gender-balanced teams drive more sustained and predictable results at all levels of an organization. McKinsey's 2018 report on diversity set out to find a correlation between diversity in leadership and increased financial performance. Based on data from the report, "Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation."

According to the McKinsey report, more diverse companies are better equipped to secure top talent and improve their approach to problem-solving, decision-making and employee satisfaction. As someone who works in the energy sector, I've seen firsthand how women are underrepresented in our field and the effects that has on renewable energy.

Petra Berg, a Ph.D. candidate at Vaasa University, agrees: "The barrier for a transition to more sustainable renewable energy systems is not lack of technology. It is mindsets, structures and cultures."

While some progress has been made, there are still plenty of hurdles we need to overcome to achieve gender equality in the solar PV industry.

One of the main reasons behind the lack of female professionals in the solar industry is the relatively smaller number of womenentering the sector, because of the lower percentage of female students in STEM subjects.

Studies show that when girls and boys are treated the same in more equalitarian societies, they perform equally well on math tests. This suggests one way to encourage more female students into STEM subjects.

By the end of 2019, our company had 30% female representation in its workforce, surpassing the 27% average of women in the solar sector, according to IRENA. Women hold senior roles in every function across our business, and there are certain areas where we have made real strides in terms of diversification.

For example, our asset management team in Spain comprises over 50% women, but there is more to do. The most technical departments, such as E&C and operations, are still filled by a majority of men, replicating the wider issue of underrepresentation of women in construction and engineering roles in society.

There is a geographical aspect, too, which reflects cultural norms and the gender split in the wider available workforce: Gender balance varies depending on the diversity of the wider workforce, so ensuring equality of opportunity and improving diversity starts from the advertising and interview process onward.

Companies must create initiatives aimed at attracting women to their job opportunities and career development offers. For example, having a "women's champion" program on construction projects to encourage the participation of women through training and capacity building, partnering for events or being part of the construction team. Such a program is proving to be effective in our 170MW Sonnedix Atacama Solar plant, in the remote Pica district of the Atacama Desert in Chile, where there are now 50 women working on-site.

Moreover, from a corporate perspective, companies should pursue a greater commitment to achieving gender at all levels, including equal pay for equivalent roles, effective policies and practices to ensure an inclusive culture and equitable career flows. This approach should include a focus on job creation as well as the educational side of things. At our company, we have a broad target to reach 100,000 learners over the next three years, and within this goal, part of the focus will be to encourage girls to venture into STEM careers by hosting targeted education and career events.

All companies that believe in sustainable growth need gender diversity in order to achieve it. We must continue to work hard to ensure equality of opportunity in all aspects of the business operations and look at the progress achieved as a source of inspiration to do more. At Sonnedix, one of our company values is One Team, and we are doing everything in our power to create gender-balanced teams and equal opportunities within the company.

And this ambition for diversity across all aspects of the team and operations surpasses gender. We should all be working hard to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone, regardless of their personal characteristics. We believe this starts with inclusion. Organizations should implement an inclusion and diversity strategy, starting from company-wide training on unconscious bias and microaggression, to ensure that everyone who joins your company feels like they belong and can actively contribute as themselves.



Joern Hackbarth

EVP, Global Head of Engineering and Construction, Sonnedix, overseeing the design and construction of assets for global solar PV platform.

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