International Women’s Day: Women in Energy with Julia Souder

CEO of the Long Duration Energy Storage Council & Chair of the Global Renewables Alliance shares her experience lifting women’s voices in the energy sector

With a career of more than two decades in executive public policy management, energy, environment and renewable energy, Julia Souder has spent the majority of her professional life advocating for the transition to clean energy and the representation of women in the energy space.

Her career path is far from the ordinary: beginning as an analyst at the US Trade Representative and US Department of Energy, Souder then moved to found her own sustainable energy consultancy company, JAS Energies, which is devoted to breaking down barriers within the clean technology space. 

Now, she is the CEO of the Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES) Council and Chair on the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA).

“I have worn many hats which gave me access to diverse insights,” she said. “I have always been motivated to make a positive difference and strive to continue building coalitions ensuring an inclusive, diverse and equitable transition with the necessary policies to make the vision a reality.”

Her work — which includes taking action with Indigenous leaders in North America to ensure a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy and amplifying the community voices who have the history, knowledge and power to make a difference — has positioned her to share her experience in ensuring that women are respected, seen and utilised to their full potential for the benefit of the workforce and the energy industry as a whole.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024, she does just that.

Q. In your own words, what are the LDES Council and the GRA?

The LDES Council is a global nonprofit advancing decarbonisation by facilitating the accelerated deployment of LDES. Our membership consists of over 60 organisations in 20 countries.

We convene members, publish research and serve as an advocate to advance the goals and objectives of the energy companies, equipment manufacturers, financial institutions and diverse technology innovators we represent. The LDES Council works to provide a multitude of benefits to society such as decreasing emissions, improving health and ensuring flexible secure green power and heat when customers need it.

The unique ecosystem, strategic partners and a desire to shape the industry and be part of the clean energy transition brings enormous value to our membership. The research and insights we are able to produce bring global, regional and local perspectives and influence key decision makers. Our partnerships bring valuable data and knowledge sharing as well as shared goals to act and build on the momentum for the essential role of LDES to decarbonise.

A particularly important industry partnership is the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA). The GRA was founded to unify the global industry bodies representing the clean technologies required for a net zero world by 2050. 

It is quite remarkable that half of the leaders of the GRA are women, demonstrating our leadership and presence is critical to the transition. We are making a difference and demonstrating the new energy economy is led by a fierce group of leaders making a difference to decarbonise our global economies and help communities transition in a just and equitable way. 

Collectively we strengthen the private sector’s voice on accelerating the energy transition, and at COP28, we called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030 to at least 11,000GW.

Q. Can you share your journey as a woman in the energy industry and how you've navigated challenges to reach the positions you hold now?

It has not always been an easy journey in this industry, as there are many people who make quick assumptions that you need to disprove. However, I have had many mentors and colleagues along the way that were both supportive and insightful. 

As a woman in the energy space, it is essential to always call out uncomfortable situations and push organisations to adopt more inclusive practices. It is important to build partnerships and relationships to support each other when things are not appropriate. We can not be trailblazers alone and the more we work together the better our communities and global work to decarbonize become stronger. As a trailblazing party we can overcome the unexpected and the surprises and as I have recently learned the “power of the pivot.” And we can continue to inspire each other and listen to our own inner voices — because our intuition is strong and powerful. Our strength comes from our dedication to make a difference and our vulnerability to grow from challenge after challenge. We are not alone! And if we all believed in ourselves, listened to our voices, and each other, and promoted one another then we could truly make the world a better place. 

This isn’t a skill you can develop overnight but by always being tenacious, curious, kind and listening to others you develop the confidence to address whatever challenges come your way. 

Working with other women is so rewarding, but so many women are taught not to be trustworthy of each other and this is wrong. Female boards and executives have extremely valuable insights and bring a wealth of resources to companies and organisations and it is well documented this translates into financial success. 

Women can and must work together with men to ensure an inclusive and collaborative workspace. There are so many talents from diverse backgrounds, it would be a shame to miss out. Making space for everyone to be heard is essential and we need to continue to open more doors and provide support once in the room. 

The renewable and storage industry are starting to change this and must continue to show an inclusive pathway to success. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion work is transformative and so critical to the success of any organisation and must be an ongoing development role for all. There are so many injustices in the world and so many people of colour have done so much without any credit and this must change. 

Q. As a leader in the renewables sector, what initiatives have you implemented to promote gender diversity and inclusion within your organisations and the broader industry?

The LDES Council is currently a small organisation but we pride ourselves on our inclusive mix of co-workers from all corners of the globe. We do however have some very large companies as members who we work closely with to develop, improve and grow their ESG targets and ensure all of their policies are inclusive.

For wider industry, it is essential to build community as the impacts of climate change are a burden that will be felt by all. For many in the energy industry it is far more than a job, people are working to protect their homes and livelihoods for the next generation.

Through Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition, I work as a mentor, meeting and hearing stories from people across the globe. It is an amazing two-way learning experience. Alongside this I host women in storage events — creating spaces to talk and collaborate. We share insights, challenges and opportunities and come up with solutions to keep us moving forward.

Q. The Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition has recommended various strategies to address the gender gap in the energy sector. Which of these strategies do you believe are most effective, and what steps have you taken to implement them?

GWNET published in its recent study some significant numbers: US$28 trillion of additional annual GDP in 2025 could be achieved if the gender gap is bridged. And this is the combined US and China economies today. 

Looking at gender diversity and diversity inclusion with the inclusion of women is critical as well as understanding different needs of staff with elder and childcare and the flexibility to adapt a work environment to support staff needs. 

I agree with GWNET that there is a culture of global business with its own language and is still highly masculine in practice which can be exclusionary. This in turn hurts society because women have skills to participate, manage and lead in the workforce providing added value in profit and innovation. We need to support a clean energy transition where women can participate and are core to the skills diversity, training and successful career pathways to a beneficial future.

Q. Given the goal of tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, how crucial do you think it is to empower and involve more women in the sector, and what benefits do you see in doing so?

Although representation of women is far higher in renewable fields than legacy energy companies, there is still some way to go. By fostering an inclusive environment and actively encouraging women's participation, we will tap into a wider pool of talent and diverse perspectives. This leads to a richer pool of ideas, skills and experiences, leading to more innovative solutions to the complex challenges that exist in the energy sector.

When there is no diversity there is a lack of perspective, innovation and benefits are seldom seen for many. As the renewable energy companies, government decision makers, customers and stakeholders encourage this essential transition to decarbonise, the only way to be successful is to have more women from all walks of life involved.

Increased participation of women and especially women of colour, particularly those of the global majority, who are especially underrepresented in the energy space will also create strong role models for future generations. In the wind sector there are amazing trailblazers who are leading Africa and global efforts on wind deployment. They continue to be successful because of their strong leadership and commitment to inclusive communication. 

Seeing the success of women in leadership positions within renewable energy and storage — especially long duration energy storage — is essential for inspiring more participation and addressing the broader societal challenge of gender inequality to foster a more equitable and inclusive world.

Our shared pathway to decarbonise affects everyone in the world — every industry like agriculture, transportation, buildings, shipping, cement, steel, chemicals, mining, urban and remote centres, islands and more — all of us are affected by the changing climate and the necessity to adapt. Women’s voices are critical to the narrative, our shared stories are working to connect the politics, the commerce and our communities. Even at different levels, our collective voices are powerful and essential to ensure a successful transition to decarbonise. 

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring women professionals who want to pursue careers in renewable energy, and what can they do to overcome gender barriers and thrive in this field?

Firstly, congratulations! You are choosing to work in one of the most impactful sectors on the planet — not just for personal career growth, but also for making a real difference in the world. Because we are moving away from fossil fuels to a renewable future with so much opportunity. 

While a strong foundation in STEM fields, particularly areas like maths, physics and engineering will be useful, don't underestimate the value of skills like business, policy, communication and project management. And most importantly critical thinking: question and be curious — just because something has existed for decades does not mean it is right or wrong — be innovative and inclusive. Creativity is also helpful and can be defined in a variety of ways, so don’t limit yourself by definitions. 

Women connect the dots as we navigate the business world with finance and policies and within this connect our empathy and listening skills to a personal level connecting us to innovate and make change happen. Women have a wonderful way to empower each other and our communities, we can bridge the gap of the information age to our local needs. 

This is a rapidly growing field with room for every kind of skill set, so it is important to align your strengths with what role you want to have. While early in your career seek out internships, have informational interviews and lunches, and look into diverse networks and mentors who can provide invaluable experience and guidance.

Thriving in a male-dominated field requires both awareness and action. Yes, there are still challenges, but the landscape is changing rapidly. Don't be afraid to showcase your skills and expertise — your voice, mind and perspective are valuable assets.

There are always ups and downs and it is so much more fun and empowering to ride the waves with friends and inspiring motivating colleagues to be there to support each other and be ready for the power of the pivot. 

We can all be trailblazers together, fight our fears, talk about our frustrations, learn and encourage each other and light up the world with positive change.

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