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women in renewable energy


Women In Renewable Energy Award Given To Plug’n Drive Founder Cara Clairman

Plug’n Drive’s founder, president, and CEO Cara Clairman wins the prestigious Women in Renewable Energy Woman of the Year Award. She’s a role model for women who are trying to overcome career challenges in the energy sector.

Women in renewable energy represent only 24% of the C-suite in the top 1,000 energy companies in the U.S. Globally, the numbers are worse, with women holding approximately 20–25% of the workforce in the overall energy industry in advanced industrialized nations — less than 6% of these are technical positions, and below 1% are top management positions in the sector.

women in renewable energy

Graphic courtesy of Korn Ferry

A Canada-based organization, however, is attempting to increase the role and recognition of women working in the energy sector. Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) forges partnerships with a spectrum of renewable energy industry associations, other related networking groups for professional women from across the energy sector, and academic providers. Their Women in Renewable Energy Woman of the Year Award recognizes a Canadian woman in the energy sector who has “served the industry with distinction, gone above and beyond the call of duty, and contributed significantly to the expansion and improvement of the power sector.”

This year’s recipient is Cara Clairman, who is founder, president, and CEO of Plug’n Drive. Plug’n Drive is a nonprofit organization committed to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles to maximize their environmental and economic benefits.

 and Clairman first got on our radar in 2015 when CleanTechnica Director Zach Shahan hosted a panel of presentations at the Renewable Cities Global Learning ForumClairman was one of the presenters and gave an inspiring and insightful rundown of the EV market in Canada and how to get more people buying electric cars — in Canada or anywhere.

Clairman has more than 20 years of experience in energy and has devoted her career to advancing sustainability in the sector. She founded Plug’n Drive women in renewable energywhile working at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in 2008. Since taking Plug’n Drive outside of OPG in 2011, she has moved the company into a leadership role in the Canadian electric vehicle industry. Plug’N Drive’s expansion in 2017 included the launch of the world’s first Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre in Toronto, where consumers can learn about and test drive electric vehicles in a sales-free and no-pressure environment.

Clairman received the WiRE award at the 2017 Association of Power Producers Ontario (APPrO) conference in Toronto, ON. All nominees are evaluated on their merits of excellence in leadership, advocacy, research and development, community engagement, and efforts to increase the adoption of clean energy technologies.

Launched in October 2013, WiRE is a nonprofit organization enhancing recognition of women in all renewable energy and clean technologies, with programming around capacity-building field trips, free networking meetups, student bursaries, and speed mentoring.

Plug’n Drive: Electric Vehicles Are for Everyone

“Cara is innovative and entrepreneurial,” says Rebecca Black, WiRE Co-Founder. “She personifies the positive impact that diverse perspectives can bring to the benefit of the clean energy and clean tech sectors.”

Joanna Osawe, WiRE co-founder and co-chair, adds: “Cara certainly impressed the slate of expert judges with her story and accomplishments.”

Clairman’s vision led to the Plug’N Drive easy-to-digest philosophy that electric vehicles are cheaper to operate and maintain, have better performance, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plug’N Drive is now relied upon in Canada as a trusted source of unbiased information about electric cars, charging stations, and the electricity sector.

The company’s programming focuses on four primary pillars:

women in renewable energy

Plug’N Drive’s EV Roadshow: An Increasing Impact

Education and Outreach: Plug’n Drive’s flagship program, the “EV Roadshow,” has traveled across Ontario on a campaign to increase public awareness of electric vehicles by exhibiting at tradeshows and community events across the province. To date, about 55,000 individuals have participated at 480+ days of events and have had over 6,800 electric vehicle test drives.

Charging Infrastructure: Plug’n Drive has partnered with Ontario’s electricity distribution companies to offer Charge My Car, an online portal where a person can buy a charging station for a home or business and get help organizing the installation. Plug’n Drive also offers consultation on large-scale public installations.

Research: Plug’n Drive conducts electric vehicle research in a Canadian context, including greenhouse gas emissions profiles, cost to drive, and the availability of public charging stations, among other relevant topics.

Policy: Plug’n Drive engages government at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels to implement policies and programs that make switching to an electric vehicle easier for all Canadians.

One of the sample resources that Plug’N Drive provides is the “Canadian Electric Car Fast Facts,” which you can read here:

◊ There are more than 41,000 electric cars on the road in Canada and counting.

◊ Provincial incentives in British Columbia, Ontario and Québec can save a consumer up to $14,000 off a vehicle purchase and $1,000 off a home charging station.

◊ Driving an electric car can save between $1,500-$2,000 per year on fuel and maintenance.

◊ Canada’s electricity is clean with the majority of power coming from hydro and nuclear.

◊ Driving an electric car in Canada can reduce a vehicle’s emissions by as much as 90%.

◊ Canada has more than 5,000 public charging stations, 300+ of which are Level 3 fast chargers.

◊ There are 35+ models available for sale in Canada with more on the way.

Advocacy and Policy Changes that Benefit Women in Renewable Energy

Like many initiatives now emerging in North America and around the world, Plug’N Drive and WiRE acknowledge organizational diversity and inclusion to improve financial bottom lines, the ability to navigate change, the adoption of innovation and new technologies, and many other benefits for the clean energy power sector. Indeed, WiRE is a signatory on the Leadership Accord for Gender Diversity in Canada’s Electricity Sector. The Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity in the Canadian Electricity Industry (the Accord) is a public commitment by employers, educators, unions, and governments to promote the values of diversity and inclusion within their organizations. The signatories to the Accord acknowledge that united action is required to ensure the support of women in the industry, along with equality and fairness for the entire workforce. The Accord offers real opportunities for employers and all those who support the sector to actively engage in building an electricity workforce that is truly representative of Canada’s people.

Bringing women into the clean energy sector has many benefits, including plain old smart economics. As far back as 2012, the World Development Report noted that “greater gender equality is smart economics, enhancing productivity, advancing development outcomes for the next generation, and making institutions more representative.”

Many initiatives in the last year have focused on enhancing the role and contributions of women in renewable energy and technology.

◊ On July 18, 2017, the Clean Energy Council, which is the peak body for the clean energy industry in Australia, announced its Leaders’ Pledge, asking industry executives to “step up to the plate and walk the talk” of promoting women. “Meeting Australia’s biggest challenges like energy will require creativity and collaboration from diverse teams,” says Geoff Culbert, CEO and president of GE Australia, NZ, and PNG. “It’s imperative that we take action to balance gender diversity and inclusion across the industry.”

◊ The 2017 Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) has identified that renewable energy development benefits women and community life and is now dedicated to using energy development to contribute to women’s education, health, empowerment, and political participation.

Profile of Women Working in the Clean Energy Sector in Canada is a report that attempts to synthesize knowledge about the degree of participation of women in renewable energy. They acknowledge that, despite the proportion of women in the energy industry that has been rising and best efforts to tap into, develop, and retain this cohort, the pace of improvement has been slow, with parity between men and women in the industry remaining “a long way off.”

International Women’s Day this year was an occasion to “celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” And the theme was #BeBoldForChange, urging women and men to become leaders within their spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) is a national nonprofit with a growing presence working across the renewable energy economy with over 30 chapters and a broad purpose – to change our energy future through the actions of women. By building community, promoting education, and cultivating leadership, WRISE works to recruit, retain, and advance women and inspire members and the public to unite in raising their voices for others.

Women in Solar Energy is the networking center point of the solar energy industry, united towards a common goal of advancing women in all aspects of the solar energy industry and promoting diversity and forward thinking business practices in the community. They do this through education, capacity building, advocacy, strategic partnerships, networking, and events.

GRID Alternatives’ Women in Solar Program works to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar industry by providing pathways to technical careers for women, highlighting the voices of women of color in the industry, and providing national leadership on solar workforce diversity. Their #womeninconstruction series highlights their training programs and internships that introduce women to hands-on jobs in the cleantech industry.

Final Thoughts on Women in Renewable Energy

Barriers do continue to hold back women from robust careers in renewable energy. But with resilience, determination, and new social constructions of tech competence, women are making strides in the clean energy sector. Cara Clairman looked back at her rise in the clean energy sector and realized, “if we could find a way to encourage people to adopt electric cars and plug them in overnight, we could increase the use of surplus baseload electricity, providing the Province with significant environmental and economic benefits.”

With leaders like Cara Clairman, the future is looking much brighter and more sustainable, for women and for everyone.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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