February 18, 2011 | by Jan Blomstrann | Leadership, Workplace Culture + Practices

I’ve just returned from a Women of Wind Energy (WoWE) board meeting, inspired as usual and so excited about the great progress the organization has made since its formation in 2005. The WoWE mentoring program is well established as evidenced by the many eager young faces you see whenever you attend an industry event. My peers and I are often tapped to speak to this group and serve as mentors to them.

We have made great gains

It’s nice to see progress, and we recognize there is much more work to be done.

Women now outnumber men in the workforce and represent an immense talent pool that the wind energy industry is beginning to tap. In addition to having more women working in renewable energy in general, we now have five women on the American Wind Energy Association board after decades with only one female representative (thank you, Karen Conover, for leading the way!). We’re getting closer to striking that important gender balance on the AWEA board, which has been shown to be a contributing factor to the effectiveness of boards. And we are seeing more and more women CEOs in our companies.

So how can we continue to build upon this success? How, as an industry, can we make sure that these more experienced women stay engaged in their work and get the support and guidance they need themselves? Who will they turn to when they need encouragement and who will provide the support for—and mentor—our mentors?

Identifying the need

The WoWE board has recognized that there is a need for our female leaders to have an established network that they can rely on for advice and leadership support. That is the essential first step toward meeting this need.

WoWE would seem be a natural network for providing this support. We’re also exploring ways to broaden this effort to include women leaders and CEOs from other sectors of the renewable energy and environmental fields. Perhaps there is an opportunity for the wind energy industry to be a model for others on this initiative?

As we talk about growing our workforce and creating new jobs, especially in the renewable energy sector, we can’t afford to neglect our established women who are tapped to share their experience, knowledge and skills with the young people entering our work world. They’re the ones who are going to be creating the new jobs and making the job offers in the future. We must keep our attention on both ends of the pipeline to ensure that this growth can and will happen.

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Jan Blomstrann

Jan Blomstrann is the former Chairwoman and CEO of NRG Systems. Jan wrote about the issues she cares deeply about: strengthening the role of women in the workplace, leadership, organizations and corporate culture, energy policy, climate change and sustainability.

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