Ghashang Navabi, President of Aurora Energy Inc., talks about the role of women in the solar industry

What is it like being the president of a commercial solar company?

We started Thermotechnologies, the parent company to Aurora Energy in 1994. At the time, I was one of the few women involved in a leadership position, serving on the Board of Directors. As we grew (consistent with trends in corporations at the time) we noticed that in our small solar company, women employees were primarily in administrative roles. In spite of active efforts to recruit women, the number of interested applicants has been few, which could indicate that women do not see themselves as potential leaders in the renewable energy industry. As we steadily work towards improving these statistics it is important to look at the growth in the industry as holding promise in attracting and maintaining a diverse workforce, centering women. 

The field of solar energy has made tremendous strides, resulting in an increase in jobs and far-reaching systemic changes to society.  This challenge is laden with opportunity, as it is estimated that by 2050 renewables will create 29 million jobs globally. As an industry, renewable energy employs approximately 32% women, which is 10% greater than the 22% of the overall jobs in the energy section (IRENA, 2019). It is incumbent on us in the industry to use this projected increase as an opportunity to promote women in positions of leadership, and champion the representation of females in this field. 

As we make global shifts in our energy use, we are offered the chance to both create new jobs and restructure the production and distribution of energy. This opportunity to creatively reimagine the workforce requires diverse and broad representation. The priority of all companies, including Aurora Energy, should be to include both drawing women into the workforce and making strategic efforts to retain women in all positions. One way to approach this is to include women in the design and development of jobs, so that their lens is represented from the inception. Another important step is to have transparent analytics of gender parity in companies, and actively use this data to strategically improve conditions. As we take on these charges, we hope to see more women in visible and meaningful leadership positions in solar energy. This visibility is imperative to draw interest from younger women entering STEM fields, so that they can see themselves as the future leaders of the renewable energy industry. 

Since 1994, I have been fortunate to witness so much growth in this industry. Growth that represents hope and promise for the future of our planet, and our society as a whole. We must continue to do this important work, and recognize that our responsibility is to make sure that our values center diversity, inclusion, and equity. Research shows that diversity stimulates more creativity, cooperation, and innovation in the workplace, thereby improving a company’s bottom-line results. As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, I encourage all women to look to the renewable energy industry with an eye towards the potential for innovation and the opportunities to create a growing industry led by women. 

Photo credit: Arthur Poulin

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