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Solar Jobs Heating Up for OR Women

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Women make up just over 26 percent of the solar workforce in Oregon, according to the Solar Foundation. (Brion Wickstrom/Synchro Star)
Women make up just over 26 percent of the solar workforce in Oregon, according to the Solar Foundation. (Brion Wickstrom/Synchro Star)
March 29, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - Women's History Month is wrapping up, and women are making gains in Oregon's solar energy sector, according to The Solar Foundation.

The Foundation's report says women made up more than one-quarter of the solar workforce last year. That's 2.5 percentage points above the national average.

Although a male-dominated industry is still the biggest barrier, Jeni Hall, program manager with the group Women In Solar Energy or WISE, says solar's youth as an industry creates another barrier for women interested in the field.

"If you don't necessarily have the skills and don't see an obvious pathway forward, that can be challenging," she says.

Oregon lawmakers gave the the young industry a boost this year, passing a bill that requires one-quarter of the state's electricity be provided through renewable energy by 2025.

At the end of last year, Congress also helped solar energy by extending the sector's investment tax credit.

Hall says WISE wants to make sure women have a voice at the solar-industry table.

The organization provides networking opportunities for women already in the workforce, and mentoring opportunities for those looking into solar-energy careers.

Hall believes solar is better off with more women in the industry.

"We really feel that having more perspectives around the table leads to better businesses, better programs, better services," Hall says. "We feel that a diverse workforce is a strong workforce."

She says WISE plans to hold a networking breakfast at the Oregon Solar Energy Conference this May.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR