Have a Seat: Welcoming Women to the Energy Sector

In addition to the record-breaking number of women running for office, we are also seeing an uptick in women getting involved within the energy sector—an industry long dominated by men. Although the energy sector still remains one of the least gender-diverse sectors, more and more women are creating green energy initiatives, founding renewable energy companies, getting involved in energy policy, and running for seats at local, state, and national levels. Now more than ever, women are determined to gain a seat at the table—and for good reason.

The energy industry, in particular, needs to be deliberate about making sure women are represented in the field. Given the industry’s natural position as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge sectors, it could play a critical role in setting a trend of getting women to the table. Three important points support this claim.

Women Within the C-Suite

As a businesswoman with a background in energy, I can tell you that it’s not always easy to find female mentors and role models. There are far fewer women than men within the profession, and that number tends to shrink within the C-suite. An Ernst & Young study found that women represented 5% of board executives and only 16% of board members across the global power and utilities sector in 2015. It is important for leaders in this sector to make an effort to promote diversity within the profession, and to ensure that diverse individuals, especially women, are included in decision-making processes at all levels.

Women in Decision-Making Roles

Research has shown time and time again that diverse groups make better decisions. For example, a study conducted by Cloverpop demonstrates a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. The research found that compared to individual decision makers, gender diverse teams make better business decisions 73% of the time. All-male teams do so only 58% of the time. Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions two times faster with half the meetings. With women at the table, business is better.

Women in Policy-Making

Diverse representation is particularly needed when energy policymakers and regulators are responsible for making such significant decisions regarding our nation’s energy. Their decisions impact infrastructure and technology investments, the price of utilities, the economic growth of the energy sector, and so much more.

Yet, since the energy market changes so quickly and innovations rapidly emerge, it is vital that policymakers and regulators have the proven ability to make connections, recognize better options, and create flexible and adaptive frameworks. Not just for today, but also for tomorrow. Because new solutions and technologies we can’t yet imagine are going to be developed, we need regulators who are prepared and qualified to consider them.

For example, right here in Georgia we are seeing the trend of new markets opening up for renewable energy and corporate suppliers leading efforts to decarbonize. It was only last month, though, that state regulators launched a new program allowing corporate giants including Google, Target, and Walmart to buy renewable energy directly from Georgia Power. This type of partnership highlights how we can effectively advance innovative energy projects and investments, with buy-in from a diverse range of community voices, businesses, and state leaders.

Having everyone at the table is the only way to create a vision that works for everyone—policymakers, regulators, industry, and consumers. This vision is why I am running for Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner.

Lindy Miller is running for Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner (PSC), District 3 (www.millerforgeorgia.com). If elected, Miller will be the first Democrat woman to be elected to PSC. She previously served as a strategy consultant at Deloitte. Miller co-founded the Georgia-based Cherry Street Energy, a firm that focuses on bringing renewable energy to local governments, nonprofits, and small businesses across the state.