How to Accelerate Diversity in the Solar Industry
For several years now, comprehensive studies analyzing the link between business success and corporate diversity have found a strong correlation between greater diversity and improved bottom-line results. However, the solar industry, like much of the U.S. workforce, still has significant room for improvement in terms of inclusion and diversity strategy. According to SEIA’s 2019 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, women represent 47% of the total U.S. workforce, yet they currently account for only 26% of the solar workforce. Furthermore, only 20% of senior executives in the solar industry are female, and 88% of all senior executives are white.
Although these statistics clearly expose the need for wider representation in the industry, in 2019 only about 20% of companies had a strategy in place to improve representation of women and people of color. Tracking metrics such as these shows a systematic approach to diversity, which is extremely important for firms that wish to be leaders in inclusion and diversity. With the proper metrics and analytics tools, companies can enable equality of opportunity through fairness and transparency. Using analytics to take bias out of the advancement process is essential for ensuring a level playing field for all employees.
How NATiVE Strives to Increase Diversity in the Industry
NATiVE Solar currently strives to increase diversity in the industry across several different avenues encompassing gender, cultural and ethnic diversity, and socio-economic diversity. In an industry presently experiencing vast opportunities for growth, greater diversity and inclusion is needed to ensure the success of the entire industry.
NATiVE recognized Solar Austin’s Pathways to Clean Energy Careers program as a catalyst for change at the grassroots level. This program places women and students of color at solar and other clean energy companies through structured internship matching. Solar Austin recruits clean energy companies such as ours to hire and mentor paid interns interested in accessing jobs in the clean energy industry. The goal of this innovative program is to “help facilitate avenues for underrepresented students into Texas’ clean energy sector and to develop a set of best practices for clean energy companies that want to improve diversity and inclusivity in their recruitment, hiring, and retention of staff.” This is a great example of a systematic approach to diversity and inclusion that should be replicated and magnified across the industry for results that will foster more resilient and diverse organizations as well as a more inclusive green jobs ecosystem.
Solar Apprenticeship Program at Del Valle Opportunity Center
Another front that NATiVE is pursuing to increase ethnic, cultural, gender, and socio-economic diversity is through solar education. Beginning as an extension of the Pathways to Clean Energy Careers program, NATiVE and Solar Austin devised an industry-leading solar apprenticeship program at the Del Valle Opportunity Center (DVOC) to teach students the skills needed to become a solar technician. Through this educational program, students are empowered to join the clean energy workforce directly out of high school, beginning a career with tremendous room for growth and advancement. The program was launched in the underrepresented community of Del Valle ISD, where approximately 96% of the population identifies as a person of color and 74% of students are considered economically disadvantaged. By collaborating with DVOC to bring relevant skills development to students looking for jobs in the industry, NATiVE is advancing opportunities for a community of people that are often overlooked. While the apprenticeship program is still in its early stages, interest is spreading to other Texas school districts, displaying the industry’s growing commitment to increasing inclusion and diversity across the board.
Our Inclusion & Diversity Partners
NATiVE is determined to bring people from all walks of life together under the same (solar) roof. To do so, we partner and work alongside organizations focused on enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce. The recently held solar camp at The Children’s Haven Association is one example of the solar community in Austin working together to enhance opportunities for people from different backgrounds to learn about and benefit from solar technology. Green Careers Dallas is another non-profit organization we are proud to work with, as they aim to disrupt poverty in South Dallas through green career training and community education. Through these various programs, NATiVE seeks to become an inclusion and diversity leader, offering people from every background the option to work with, support, and enhance the solar industry.