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More Women Soar into Wind Energy Sector

The organization Women of Wind Energy, two of its members seen above, wants to reduce the industry's gender gap. (Women of Wind Energy)
The organization Women of Wind Energy, two of its members seen above, wants to reduce the industry's gender gap. (Women of Wind Energy)
March 15, 2016

SEATTLE - It's Women's History Month, a celebration of women who have shaped the country, and also a time to appreciate those who are changing society now.

In the historically male-dominated energy sector, the organization Women of Wind Energy is helping more women get into the industry. Kristen Graf, the group's executive director, said a lot of women are interested in the rapidly growing field.

"Young women in K-through-12 programs (are) interested in science and technology, and often interested in it as a way to address larger world problems," she said. "So, why not connect them to renewable energy and jobs that are creating clean technologies?"

Wind energy is getting national support to grow, too. Congress extended the renewable-energy tax credit at the end of last year, a move that's expected to boost wind development in 2016.

In a 2013 survey by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, women made up about one-fifth of the wind-power workforce. Karen Conover, an engineer who started her own consulting company in Washington and has been on the board of the American Wind Energy Association since 1995, said she's seen the advantages firsthand to bringing women into the industry.

"Groups of teams that are diverse offer a lot of advantages and, since I was working in such a male-dominated industry, I was often the only woman at the table," she said. "So, I think I could bring a lot of things to the table that didn't already exist there in the group."

Conover, vice president of DNV GL Energy, added that women have been especially underrepresented in the engineering field.

Graf said women who want to join the sector should look to female role models in the field, "and then, I would say, connect to other women around the industry. Especially in the Northwest," she said, "we have some really strong Women of Wind Energy chapters."

The federal Department of Energy has laid out a plan for wind to supply one-fifth of the country's electricity by 2030.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA