Updated 1 month ago

Women in solar: Key facts, statistics, and trends

Written by Jamie Smith , Edited by Catherine Lane

Women in solar: Key facts, statistics, and trends

Over the past decade, the solar energy sector has experienced significant growth and innovation, becoming a pivotal player in the global push towards sustainable energy solutions. 

The role of women in solar has garnered increasing attention, especially as the industry outpaces other traditionally male-dominated fields in gender inclusivity. From installing to marketing, women are shaping the future of solar energy.

We’ve looked at the data and spoken with women across all sectors to highlight the triumphs and setbacks of the industry and how we can continue to make solar more equitable.

Latest industry statistics for women in solar

We reviewed the IREC Solar Jobs Census, The Department of Energy’s Energy & Employment Report, and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Renewable Energy and Jobs report to get a better understanding of what jobs are most popular for women in the solar industry, how the solar industry stacks up against other trades and energy sectors, and how diversity and inclusion initiatives are being incorporated. 

Percentage of women in the U.S. solar workforce continues to grow

According to the most recent IREC Solar Jobs Census, women comprised about 31% of the U.S. solar workforce - up from 26.9% in 2017.

Even in 2020, when the solar industry as a whole contracted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of women in the industry increased. 

Sue McKeen, an employee of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), has been in the industry for over a decade. She recounted seeing the increase in women in solar firsthand. 

“Every time a woman passed – we would all get excited because, you know, back 14 years ago, there weren’t as many women in the industry as there are today. So I’ve seen a huge rise in women in the industry since I started.”

- Sue McKeen

While solar employs a higher percentage of women than the general U.S. energy industry, it still falls short of the overall national workforce, which is 47% female. 

Women hold highest percentage of administrative positions, lag in other sectors

The percentage of women exceeds men in just one sector of the solar industry - administration professionals. 58% of solar administrative positions are held by women. While administrative professionals are vital to the industry's growth, women are still underrepresented in other solar job sectors.

32% of STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) positions, and 35% of non-STEM technical positions (lawyers, procurement experts, etc.) are held by women. Of non-technical solar sales positions (marketing, sales, distribution, and installation), 38% of them are held by women.

When it comes to upper management and leadership positions, women account for 30%, with a mere 18% of senior solar management positions held by women.

Riley Neugebauer, a female installer, spoke on being a part of the smaller percentage of women on the installation side.

 “It can be challenging day-to-day for a lot of reasons. Just keep your determination, keep your head up, and connect with other women,”

- Riley Neugebauer

Solar outpaces other trades in female employment

Although solar is still male-dominated, we’ve seen a higher percentage of women working in solar than in other trade industries.

Bar graph showing women in solar vs. women employed in U.S. workforce trades

Percentage of women working in solar workforce vs. percentage of women working in similar trades in the overall U.S. workforce.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic is the number of women employed in the solar installation sector versus other construction-related fields. Solar outpaces construction by a staggering amount, with 30% of solar’s installation workforce comprising women, while just 10.8% of the total construction workforce is female

This is also true among wholesale trade, Operations & Maintenance, and Manufacturing sectors. 

Solar employs a higher percentage of women than other energy industries globally

On an international level, women comprise 40% of the full-time positions in the solar PV sector, far more than other energy sectors. The IRENA reported that women account for 40% of the solar PV sector, 22% in oil and gas, and 21% in wind energy.  

Graphic showing percentage of women employed across global energy sectors

However, a report by the Department of Energy shows that within the U.S., solar employs just about the same percentage of women as wind and hydroelectric industries and falls behind nuclear and natural gas, suggesting we have more work to do to fill the gap domestically. 

Gender diversity in the solar industry: Making strides over the years

While steps have been taken to close the gender diversity gap, strategies are still hard to come by.

According to the 2022 Solar Jobs Census, only 27% of U.S. solar firms have adopted strategies to increase female hires, and 31% reported offering diversity and/or inclusion training. Hopefully, we’ll see that number climb in the years to come. 

Meet the women in solar

Sue McKeen – Business Manager, NABCEP

Women sitting at a desk with a computer next to the NABCEP company logo

Sue McKeen has contributed her hard work to the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a high-regarded certification and licensing organization in solar, for over a decade. 

Despite having no prior experience in solar, this opportunity came to her by working her way up in the industry. Beginning with NABCEP as an office administrator, Sue eventually evolved into a Business Manager position, working on the organization’s annual Continuing Education Conference, which has grown to gain over 1,000 attendees from all different areas of the industry.

We want people to leave the conference with more knowledge than they came with,” McKeen said, “So if we do that, we feel it was successful.

Karla Loeb – Owner, Loeb Consulting; Board of Directors, SEIA

Woman smiling next to the SEIA and Loeb Consulting LLC company logos

Karla Loeb considers herself a veteran in the solar world – and it’s pretty clear why. With well over a decade in the clean energy space, Loeb has worked closely in government affairs and pushing new legislation for renewables. Currently serving as the Elected At-large Director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Karla has proved herself as a force to be reckoned with.

My internal drive was related to being of service – and not necessarily having that service be acknowledged by anybody, but just to be of service,” Loeb said.

Loeb was able to recall her disdain for the lack of programs in place for low income households in New York State to gain access to renewables and set out on a mission to change that. She worked closely with state legislators, NYSERDA, and the Public Utilities Commission to rethink the power grid in New York, which really set the stage for her career. 

“After two years of banging drums, knocking on doors, and stomping through the halls of the legislature, the Public Utilities Commission started allocating funds for low-income solar programs,” Loeb told SolarReviews.

This is just one example of the many commendable achievements Loeb was able to share. She has had a hand in many important pieces of legislation that advocate for renewable energy and solar initiatives, including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). 

Riley Neugebauer – Solar Installer and Electrical Apprentice, Namaste Solar; Creator, Solar for Women

Female solar installer on a roof featuring the Namaste Solar company logo

Riley Neugebauer is no stranger to the world of solar and renewable energy. Beginning her career with a non-profit organization, she worked with students to urge campuses to buy clean energy solutions for their communities. Since then, she’s worked in several areas of the renewable energy industry before deciding to tackle photovoltaic (PV) installation. 

I looked into programs around the country that taught solar specifically because it seemed like the best overlap with my interests,” Neugebauer said.

Neugebauer recalled having a goal in mind when starting her career to start an all-women solar company but didn’t realize just how much work that would turn out to be with the lack of women working in installation. 

Through this and other challenges she faced in her career, Riley drew inspiration to start an online resource for women called Solarforwomen.com, where women in the solar industry can learn, network, and rely on each other for support and inspiration. 

“I wouldn’t say that I started out feeling totally comfortable being sort of the poster child,” Neugebauer said, “but I think it’s just become really clear that I have to be because if I want these stories to be told, and I want people to know that this is a viable career choice for women, I felt like I had to take it on.”

Sherren Harter – Chief Marketing Officer, Freedom Solar

Black and white image of a woman smiling next to the Freedom Solar Power company logo

Sherren Harter is the Chief Marketing Officer for Freedom Solar, a solar company that offers residential and commercial solar installations to all of Texas and select markets nationwide, such as Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina. Harter’s all-women marketing team specializes in marketing strategies, brand management, and partnerships. 

“This particular company – more than anywhere else –  I feel like I, and the people I work with, show up as our authentic selves,” Harter said. “That being said, to be a woman in this environment takes strength of will and a sense of humor and to be able to hold your own.”

Working in solar marketing, where one of the main objectives is to build your brand and sell it, Harter elaborated on the challenges brought on in the past year, when the industry as a whole was in rough shape – and being able to navigate her team through that tough time. Harter stressed that she never wanted her team to hide away during the bad times and to take the industry struggles head-on. 

The high of succeeding in solar is so strong and powerful that it makes it worth it,” Harter said.  

Resources for women in solar

For those looking to or currently working in the solar industry – there are educational programs, courses, and training available to women worldwide!

SEI: Women in Solar Power program

Solar Energy International (SEI) offers a learning program for women looking to enter the installation sector. The program offers an online discussion forum, career resources, and links to upcoming webinars and training. 

SEI practices what they teach. The organization has a large team of female instructors, curriculum developers, staff members, and women in leadership.

GRID Alternatives: Women in Solar Program

GRID Alternatives has a program for prospective women installers. If interested, women can get hands-on experience installing with no experience needed. Beyond volunteering, women can enroll in installation training programs offered by the organization, where they can obtain skills certifications and leadership training.

The website also offers a library full of webcasts led by women in every aspect of the solar industry. These discussions cover a range of topics that can be used as resources for learning and gaining valuable career insights. 

Remote Energy

Remote Energy is a not-for-profit organization based in Washington with a mission to build a gender-balanced, diverse, and inclusive solar industry.  The organization offers women-only solar electric classes that are online and in-person and has partnered with worldwide organizations and professionals to develop customized training programs for students. 

Final thoughts

Women have been taking the solar energy industry by storm. Over the years, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of women working in this field, and we hope to see this trend continue. 

More women are employed in the solar industry than in any other renewable energy sector globally, speaking volumes to the growing diversity in this field. We aspire to see more women in leadership and upper management positions in the future, and we’re hopeful the gap will close in installation and STEM-related fields. 

Our featured women in solar continue to inspire others for their contributions to the solar and renewable energy industries. 

“Being in the [solar] industry and around the people of the industry has made my life very happy.” -Sue McKeen

“I didn’t know I was going to end up here, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s been a labor of love and frustration and a lot of hard work, but I'm really proud of how far we’ve come.” -Karla Loeb

“Knowing that I’m creating something that’s pretty maintenance-free and that’s a pretty good investment for people feels good to me – and knowing that it’s dealing with climate at the same time is really great.” -Riley Neugebauer

“Solar, you know, once you’ve got a taste of it, it’s really hard to want to do anything else.” -Sherren Harter

Written by Jamie Smith Content Specialist

Jamie is a Content Writer and researcher at SolarReviews. A recent graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Jamie earned her B.S. in communications with a concentration in journalism, mass media, and public relations. Jamie has previously worked at a marketing company where she had the opportunity to highlight and promote small business owners through long-form stories and interviews. With a deep-rooted passion for creativity, Jamie stri...

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