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IWD: Inspiring Inclusion in the Renewable Energy Industry

Despite progress in recent years and new initiatives to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM, only 32% of renewable energy workers in the global industry are women. There is still a big gap to close here, but at K2 Management, we understand the need to empower women and drive equal opportunities. We have a greater number of women on our teams than the global average, and continue to do all we can to close this gap. 

This year's International Women's Day (IWD) theme is to inspire inclusion - a topic that sits at the forefront of many of our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. To mark the occasion, we have spoken to several women at K2 Management to hear why IWD is essential to them, their experiences, and to source their thoughts on how to further promote female careers in renewable energy. 

A time to reflect   

IWD, which has been running since 1975, is important because it provides an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of women throughout history and in contemporary society.  However, it also encourages individuals to challenge stereotypes, break gender norms, and work towards a world where everyone, regardless of gender, has equal opportunities and rights.  

As Kirsten Qvist Isak, Senior Consultant, Environmental & Consent, says: "I think International Women's Day is one of those key days where we all should reflect on how we live our lives: do we live in a society which reflects our values? Are we free to make our own choices? Are we proud of the world we live in?". As Kirsten notes, IWD marks an opportunity to reflect on different communities around the world - whether closer to home or further abroad - to see where we can adopt new learnings and implement new approaches to diversity that help make a positive impact.  

In Korea, Project Manager Jieun Woo, believes IWD holds an even greater significance. Given that Korea has deep roots in Confucianism, which traditionally delineates strict gender roles, she believes this day resonates globally in the fight against gender discrimination. This is especially true in places where women have achieved rights that are now taken for granted. Jieun comments: "International Women’s Day is an important day as it prompts contemplation on what can be done for the next generation, just like past generations worked hard to change traditional perceptions of women in Korean society. It also encourages thinking about how experiences combating gender discrimination can be shared with countries where the journey towards gender equality is still far." 

The key message is that IWD should unite women worldwide and seek to foster a shared commitment to inclusion and empowerment. It serves as a reminder that the fight for gender equality is a collective effort that transcends borders and reminds us to amplify the voices of all women.  

Globally, roughly half of working-age women participate in the labour force, which is significantly lower than the male labour force participation rate of around 80%. This gap is virtually unchanged from what it was three decades ago. It's therefore important to celebrate IWD as it unites women from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and societies, emphasising that the challenges faced by women in the workplace - and in terms of accessing the workplace - are universal.  

As Meghan Grogan, Sales & Client Support Coordinator comments: “As gender inequality still exists, and women are still disproportionately affected by many widespread issues, it is vital that women recognise the successes and struggles of people identifying as women across the world to progress and bring awareness to discrepancies and injustices.” 

Inspiring Women  

There are many women out there who serve as an inspiration for others. Recently, our colleagues at K2 Management shared their personal role models with us. Some of these women look up to historical role models, while others are more personal and closer to home.   

Jieun Woo, one of our Project Managers, tells us her greatest female role model is Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun and missionary known for her selfless dedication to helping the poor and sick. Jieun shares: "During my high school years, I read a book about her life, and I was deeply impressed. She cared for the most rejected and the poorest people. I occasionally try to remember Mother Teresa, who valued all lives and embraced everyone.” 

Reflecting on a previous role, Sadi K. Oagile, one of our Analysts, takes her inspiration from a previous colleague. "Sophie Brain was a joy to work with. When I started my previous job, it was immediately obvious how integral she was to the everyday running of the company. I was initially nervous because I didn't think I was good enough to get hired, so I felt immense pressure to prove myself. Whenever I approached her for help, she never made me feel inadequate for not knowing something, so over time, I derived a sense of calm from her." 

Senior Consultant, Kirsten Qvist Isak, tells us that Jenny Tough, a Canadian-born adventurer, author, and endurance athlete, is her female icon: “She is fearless and dares to step outside the norms. She has given me the courage to say no to mansplaining, to refuse rejection when the reason is my gender only, and not to accept that women are the weaker sex."  

A key learning from these anecdotes is that inspiration comes in many forms. Whether from historical figures or supportive colleagues, each story reflects the diverse ways women can contribute to the empowerment and growth of their peers. These narratives reinforce the idea that acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of women, both past and present, big or small, can have a profound impact on individuals.  

Be the inspiration  

To help inspire other women, we need to remember the transformative power of representation. One of the most significant obstacles is simply needing to see women in certain positions. As Sadi shares: “When I think I can't work in a specific role, it's usually because when I envisage someone in that position, it's not a woman that I imagine. We must encourage women already in the industry not to shy away from putting themselves out there.” 

It is crucial for women to make themselves known by taking on new opportunities to share experiences, however modest they are. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, close to 80% of women struggle with low self-esteem and shy away from self-advocacy at work. Through representation, we can help women considering a role in STEM or other male-dominated fields be confident enough to take that leap. 

Don't be afraid 

We can encourage aspiring women to enter the renewable energy field in many ways. At K2 Management, we know the value that community and a sense of belonging brings. As Jieun shares: "It's a good idea to find online communities of women working in the renewable energy field and listen to the opinions of renewable energy practitioners shared there. In these communities, you can occasionally find information about training programmes offered by the companies they belong to and conference information related to renewable energy." 

While connecting with and better understanding each other has never been more important, courage is also critical. Sadi continues to tell us that there are many ways to get involved in STEM careers regardless of educational background, adding: “You shouldn't disqualify yourself from any opportunities. Research shows that women tend not to put themselves forward for vacancies if they don't fulfil every requirement in the job description, but I say go for it. Everyone has to start somewhere.”  

For years there has been the belief that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. There is a real confidence gap here that needs to be filled. What's necessary to do so is to empower women to overcome self-doubt and embrace the opportunities they deserve. 

Christina Jacobsen, our Chief Human Resources Officer, believes this can be achieved by ensuring women have the same access as men to receive education. An example of this is Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative in the US, aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. “This access could, eventually, change the current fact that women remain underrepresented in scientific, technical, and engineering (STEM) disciplines, despite growing demand including in the renewable industry. Currently, they make up just 38% of PhDs in physical sciences and engineering (27%),” Christina comments.  

If we see a larger number of women in the STEM industry, this will also lead to an increased number of diverse thinkers and leaders, which is necessary to solve the challenges we are facing today and in the future.    

A more inclusive and sustainable future   

As we commemorate International Women's Day and strive to inspire inclusion in the renewable energy industry, K2 Management remains committed to empowering women and fostering equal opportunities. By reflecting on the power of representation, we encourage women to be visible and connect with colleagues in the hope that we see a more sustainable and brighter future for female communities.  

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