Currently 36 percent of all senior positions in the solar industry, those earning $75 per hour or more, are filled by white men. Men of color represent 28 percent of workers in top positions, while 21 percent are white women and only 4 percent are women of color. That lack of diversity at the top, and throughout the solar industry, are problems the solar industry hopes to change and it outlined both the causes and potential fixes in the 2017 US Solar Industry Diversity Study by the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Women’s Empowerment Committee and The Solar Foundation.
“Companies reflect the communities they serve, and a diverse workforce helps them expand their consumer base as they make solar power accessible to more people. But as these findings show, the industry has a lot of work to do to ensure the solar workforce is as diverse as the rest of America,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation.
Overall, the solar industry workforce has seen a 4 percent increase in women workers since 2015, the biggest shift, and now they represent 28 percent of all solar employees. Otherwise diversity remained largerly stagnant with 17 percent of solar workers self-identifying as Hispanic or Latino, 9 percent identified as Asian and American Indian and 7 percent identified as African American. Eight percent of African Americans reported that they have successfully climbed up the career ladder in their companies. Overall, 50 percent of African American respondents said they feel stuck in their current positions.
The study found that soalr companies aren't doing much to expand diversity in their workforces. Only 14 percent of US solar companies have implemented strategies to recruit women and only 7 percent of companies have programs to recruit people of color into their workforce. Just 25 percent of all companies reviewed bother to track diversity demographics within their companies.
The study suggests ways to increase workforce diversity. The study recommends broadening recruiting efforts, using a blind application process, creating diversity goals and establishing training programs to increase promotions to higher level positions for women and people of color.
“We know from decades of research that diversity is strongly correlated with financial performance across businesses. In the face of tremendous workforce growth, it is critical to create a solar culture that welcomes, encourages, and advances equity and inclusion. The opportunity cost is too great,” said Kristen Graf, executive director of Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy.
Nonprofits are already partnering with solar companies and utilities to help increase diversity in the solar industry’s workforce. Grid Alternatives joined ConEdison to promote women in the solar industry in 2015 by launching the National Women in Solar Initiative. That $1.2 million initiative provided more than 1,000 women across the US with solar installation training. The program also provided 20 women with one year paid fellowships to work in the solar industry.Tweet