Women in energy and engineering: The time is now

By Maria Zagorulko, Senior Development and Operations Engineer at Naked Energy
There has never been a better time for women to work in the energy sector, says Maria Zagorulko, Senior Development and Operations Engineer at Naked Energy

Starting a career in renewable energy can be tough - especially as a woman. If you’re not fortunate enough to secure a job with one of the global energy companies, it’s daunting to know how to break into the industry. 

However, there is an often neglected path into the renewables sector - startups. They are frequently forgotten by women embarking on the job-finding journey, perhaps because they are smaller than big corporate players and therefore harder to find.

This shouldn’t be the case. We need to start showing that startups are a viable option for fresh female talent looking to enter engineering.

Internships and their importance 

Industry communication plays an essential role in this - it’s all about showing what working in a startup is really like. College visits and university career fairs are crucial for industry exposure and to let prospective candidates hear about ways into startups, such as internships. That’s what helped me, a sustainability enthusiast, to find my way into engineering.

I knew very little about the solar energy industry prior to joining Naked Energy as an intern in 2019, but I quickly got engrossed in solar thermal. I was exposed to a broad spectrum of activities that really switched up my day-to-day. One day I would be developing products, the next I’d be managing logistics. I thrived on that variety, and I believe a lot of women would be drawn to renewables if they knew how much they could learn. 

Working in a startup is an amazing learning curve, and evidently more and more startups are interested in hiring female engineers. Women often bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table, and they have more chances to voice their opinions and leave their footprint in a startup than in a crowded legacy firm. 

Startups for 10

That’s why I’d wholeheartedly recommend joining a startup to any woman looking to begin their career in engineering - they’re fast moving, multifaceted, and you’ll gain important experiences across every aspect of the business. 

It’s the versatility of a small team that I enjoy and cherish the most, and since joining Naked Energy, it feels like I’ve worked across every department. I’ve gone from data analysis and creating performance reports for our installations across the world, to logistics and inspecting the entirety of our supply chain. I’ve also had the great privilege of helping set up our UK manufacturing hub in Essex. 

Being given a variety of tasks is the biggest benefit and it leads to much faster professional development. You’re trusted with more responsibility and it’s easier to have a recognisable impact on growth. Working in a startup can also mean getting in at ground level - you might start as an intern, but soon find yourself in the position of taking on company-wide responsibilities. 

Startup culture has blown away my expectations of engineering. I’m now developing a plan to help Naked Energy achieve BCorp status, something I wouldn’t be leading if I hadn’t joined a small team. 

Paving the way

It’s this level of empowerment that women in renewables need. We’re hungry for opportunities and we’re willing to fight for them - nonetheless a severe lack of role models and industry exposure is hindering engagement with young female engineers. 

If we’re going to inspire young girls to pursue a career in renewable energy, then we need to celebrate the achievements of female engineers. While we see a range of female role models in sectors like business and banking, it is rarer to see that kind of promotion for women in engineering and rarer still in the energy industry. There simply isn’t as much exposure to women in our industry. 

There is some progress in universities engaging with women and encouraging them to explore a career in climate tech and engineering. You see a lot of activity from organisations like ‘Women in STEM’ who specially target women who are curious about exploring the many different paths engineering has to offer. They’re well-known for supporting and encouraging girls who want a career in STEM and it’s a great step in the right direction.

While there’s still work to be done, the renewable energy transition has resulted in a host of opportunities for women to break into the sector. There has never been a better time for women to become engineers. Renewable energy is getting a makeover - and it’s here to stay.

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