Meet three changemakers who are committed to mentoring the next generation of women leaders in renewable energy.
For many years, women have been a crucial but underrepresented resource in the landscape of renewable energy.
According to a survey by Ernst & Young, women represent only five percent of board executives across the global power and utilities sector. While many key stakeholders in the energy sector are women — including engineers, policymakers, and entrepreneurs — there are very few women CEOs of utility companies, Ministers of Energy, or heads of energy regulators. This means we’re missing out on essential perspectives and innovation.
To address this gender gap, the Clinton Climate Initiative launched the Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE) Network in 2016. The network provides an online and offline forum for women energy professionals—it connects dozens of ambassadors to mentees to share career advice, technical expertise, support, and more.
Keep reading for the stories of just three of the many trailblazing women who are empowering themselves and others through the WIRE Network.
Meet Hannah Olmberg-Soesman
Hannah Olmberg-Soesman hasn’t always worked in the energy sector. For more than a decade, she conducted social work in her native Suriname’s remote hinterland villages. Many of the villages receive only a few hours of electricity per day.
During one of her visits to the region, Hannah met a solar energy entrepreneur and was inspired to bring solar energy to the villages of Suriname. She knew that solar could provide these communities with, not only electricity, but also a wide range of social, educational, and economic benefits — particularly for the women in the community.
Drawing on her experience in social work, Hannah began to introduce off-grid solar systems to the villages through a company she co-founded with her husband. Through the installations, Hannah saw firsthand how renewable energy could improve quality of life for the women in the communities. With reliable electricity, women could preserve goods to sell at local markets, access educational resources, and more.
She was recently awarded the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Personality Award for her exceptional contribution to a sustainable energy future in the region. As a WIRE Network mentor, Hannah shares her experience and expertise with emerging leaders — but she also gets something back in return. She recently told Forbes: “As a mentor, I learn and teach. I inspire—and I am being challenged to live a meaningful life and help others to do also.”
Meet Davina Layne
Davina Layne knows firsthand the unique challenges that women often face in business settings—from pitching small business ideas to navigating the male-dominated energy sector.
In addition to working full time with both USAID’s Caribbean Clean Energy Program and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Davina has found ways throughout her career to uplift and empower other women.
Several years ago, Davina co-founded a start up retailing natural chemical-free hair care products with a goal of empowering women in her native Barbados to redefine notions of health and well-being. Building on that experience — as well as a desire to connect with other women business leaders — Davina recently participated in the Caribbean Startup Summit.
During a business pitch competition at the summit, she overcame her fears of public speaking and was awarded the Special Female Founder Prize. The prize allowed her to participate at no cost in an all-female entrepreneur bootcamp and later an accelerator program to hone her business skills.
Through the WIRE Network, Davina is able to further connect with other women leaders and entrepreneurs, sharing knowledge, opportunities, and support. She recently told Barbados News: “It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by such talented and inspiring ladies who are leaders in this and related fields. I am even more inspired than before to stay on top of my game.”
Meet Liz Thompson
When you ask Liz Thompson about the proudest moments over the course of her career, she could choose from many. Her resume spans a lifetime of accomplishments and accolades: Minister of Energy and Environment of Barbados; Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations; recipient of the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth Award; and recently named Barbados permanent representative to the UN — just to name a few.
However, the two moments she cites as most formative are telling: spearheading one of the first national green economic policies in the world and introducing groundbreaking legislation to help provide treatment for HIV positive women during pregnancy.
As a WIRE Network mentor, Liz is able to draw upon these dual passions — increasing access to renewable energy and increasing opportunity for women in the communities around her. By sharing her experience and expertise, she is able to empower the next generation of women leaders in energy.
“I am being challenged to live a meaningful life and help others.“ was originally published in The Clinton Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.