“Your Network Is Your Net Worth” — WiRE Co-Founder Joanna Osawe (#CleanTechnica Interview)

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

I admit it: I’m a child of the 60s. I grew up in a time when “peace” and “love” were the mantras, and I learned culturally that embracing others was the noble road. I’ve been dismayed with the current political climate in which hate is pervasive and many people take pride in stratification, objectification, and isolation. So I was pleased during a recent CleanTechnica exclusive interview with Women in Renewable Energy‘s (WiRE) Chair & Co-Founder, Joanna Osawe, who told me about her own positive experiences in energy tech and her organization’s mission of sustainability, inclusivity, and innovation.

WiREWiRE’s mission is to advance the role and recognition of women working in the energy sector, inclusive of all renewable energy and clean technologies. One of the programs that WiRE supports is Electricity Human Resources Canada’s Leadership Accord for Gender Diversity in Canada’s Electricity Sector. It is a public commitment by employers, educators, unions, and governments to promote the values of diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Whether it’s through recruitment, retention, career progression or training and development, all the signatories are committed to improving opportunities for women in the electricity industry.

Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

WiREWhy is such a Leadership Accord important to WiRE? In our interview, Osawe discussed how organizational diversity improves the bottom line, the ability to navigate change, the adoption of innovation and new technologies, and many other benefits for the power sector. She described how WiRE seeks out partnerships with a “spectrum of renewable energy industry associations,” as many career paths in the electricity industry require advanced skills and training that must be frequently honed along the way.

Bringing Everybody to the Energy Tech Table

With an organizational focus on gender inclusion and diversity in renewable energy sectors, I expected Osawe to provide a litany of horror stories about her own experiences breaking through the energy and tech ceiling. After all, we’ve heard how Ellen Pao sued the prominent venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, read surveys from women who describe extensive patterns of tech gender bias, scrutinized the leaky pipeline of women in engineering, even read Facebook’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s plea in the Wall Street Journal  for us to admit that “gender inequality is so pervasive that we often don’t see it.”

WiREBut WiRE’s president didn’t chronicle to me that her own career path was either divisive or full of gender-based obstacles. “I’ve been in the industry over 15 years,” Joanna Osawe said, “and I’ve been very lucky. I’ve always been welcomed. Men have been mentors to me,” she added. “It’s been about bringing everybody to the table.”

Osawe is the Global Business Development Manager – Major Projects at DMC Power. Using the language skills she focused on in college, she’s developed on a 15+ year management career at leading renewable and energy sector companies in Canada and the US. She’s known for carrying complex projects through many stages, and she’s seen firsthand the vital role renewable energy and emerging technologies serve in moving the Canadian, US, and global energy mix forward.

“WiRE is always here to support and assist,” she offered. “I believe in sharing, not only from a WiRE standpoint, but from a personal standpoint.” As part of the WiRE Advisory Committee, she’s one of several professional women drawn from different sectors across the spectrum of the energy industry in Canada. Committee members devote their time voluntarily to manage WiRE programming, business, and operations. “I like to share information, contacts, or even market information — we are always here anytime people want to get engaged with our participants.”

Launched in 2013 in Toronto, WiRE now has chapters in Montreal, Ottawa, Southern and Northern Alberta, British Columbia, Hamilton/ Mississauga, Southwestern Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland. Of the many capacity- building opportunities that WiRE offers to participants — field trips, networking meet-ups, awards recognition, student bursaries — the mentoring program has been essential.

Everyone’s Welcome: Building a Network with WiRE

Canada’s largest solar energy conference took place on June 20 & 21, 2018 at Solar Canada. WiREWith focus on Canada’s fastest growing renewable energy markets of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario — and the rest of Canada — the conference featured the Hon. Sandra Jansen, Alberta Minister of Infrastructure. She spoke about Alberta’s intent to procure 135,000 MWh per year of solar electricity.

WiREAt Solar Canada, the 1st WiRE Speed Mentoring event in Alberta facilitated short, focused conversations between experienced industry mentors and tomorrow’s energy sector subject matter experts and leaders of all genders. “Although the sector hasn’t grown as much as I’d like, the sector has grown with STEM, WiRE, and other organizations. The more we merge with academics,” Osawe noted, the higher the female participation becomes.

WiRE Speed Mentoring sessions helped students and new professionals of all genders entering the energy field to receive mentorship and feedback from experienced industry professionals with long careers in the energy sector.

  • Mentors come from backgrounds in STEM, R&D, innovation, clean technology, and sustainability.
  • Mentees included students and recent graduates who are eager to work in the energy sector, young professionals looking to progress within the industry, as well as experienced individuals who are looking to transition to the energy sector.

“Your network is your net worth,” Osawe declared. “We’re seeing more women at events like these. WiRE’s replicating the programming on the national side and, with industry partnerships, we make a solid voice. I believe in partnering and supporting each program.”

WiRE’s presence at Solar Canada included an informational booth, which Osawe mentioned “is always popular. Everybody seems to know each other. It’s nice to see old friends and meet new colleagues.” The ability to connect to others in the energy tech field is important to foster diversity and to increase the numbers of women in renewable energy careers. “The WiRE booth is there to pop in, to join your network.”

Building on the idea of mentoring, I asked Osawe how can women empower other women to gain access to male-dominated fields like tech and energy. “Start your networking as soon as possible. I wish I had known there was a platform like WiRE to come together when I was starting out. What’s great about the marriage of WiRE and others in the industry is the ability to talk shop. To market intelligence. It’s beneficial to both.”

Clean Energy Technology In Western Canada

The Government of Alberta has programs to try to raise awareness among consumers about energy use and the associated economic and environWiremental consequences. By targeting activities related to energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the development of micro-generation and small scale energy systems, Energy Efficiency Alberta promotes the development of an energy efficiency services industry in the region.

Osawe indicated the Solar Canada was situated “out west” for 2018 as this region comprises “the next hot markets — Saskatchewan and Alberta. The focus is growing on the renewable energy sector in those areas. We just had elections in Ontario,” she continued. “The new premier supports solar but not necessarily wind.”

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s at Solar Canada or the recent Climate Leaders’ Summit, WiRE President Joanna Osawe joins women climate leaders from G7 countries and the international community to advance ambitious action on climate change. She continues momentum towards the achievement of the Paris Agreement objectives through women’s leadership ahead of the G7 environment meeting Canada will host later this year. Osawe is one of the women leaders who are helping to propel the transition to a just, low-carbon world.

And that’s refreshingly hopeful at a time when many leaders around the world are indebted to the fossil fuel industry.

[Note: The ennui that Osawe mentioned on the part of Premier Rachel Notley  — and other Canadian leaders — does seem to be problematic. The solar energy industry could be moving more investment to Alberta as changes loom to Ontario’s green energy programs, according to many attending the Solar Canada 2018 conference in Calgary. Incoming Ontario premier Doug Ford is eliminating that province’s GreenON program, which provided incentives like rebates for solar panels to those looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

Notley also has her own issues with clean energy advocates. In April, 2018, she stated that she believed the outright government purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline would ensure its planned expansion in order to ship more oil to Asia-Pacific markets in what has become an escalating battle over the oil sands pipeline project.]

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Video

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, 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 Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

Carolyn Fortuna has 1281 posts and counting. See all posts by Carolyn Fortuna