Kristina M. Johnson at the Inaugural Women and Energy Dinner

The clean energy revolution will progress farther and faster if it draws on the brightest minds everywhere. Every young woman who is discouraged from studying science and engineering represents potential innovation lost. The world will be better off -- men and women alike -- if those who have succeeded in these fields share their own stories, and inspire young women to follow in their footsteps.

As someone who has built her career in science and engineering and had the privilege of receiving a great education, I, like so many others, know first-hand the importance of empowering women through education. Regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, interest in science begins in early childhood. Nearly 60% of female chemists and chemical engineers who responded to a Bayer Facts of Science Education XIV Survey said they first became interested in science by age 11. Today, however, energy-related institutions have significantly fewer female professionals at all levels. Women constitute less than 20% of the professional energy workforce.

These inequities between women and men are the motivation for launching the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment “C-3E” Women’s Initiative, a product of President Obama’s commitment to expand education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields for women.

The C-3E Women’s Initiative aims to inspire young women to pursue studies that will enable them to participate in the clean energy revolution. We need 100 percent -- not 50 percent -- participation in the clean energy revolution. The C-3E Initiative will draw on the talents and innovative powers of leaders across the globe to change the paradigm for women in STEM.

On the eve of the Clean Energy Ministerial, Sunday July 18, we hosted the inaugural Women and Energy Dinner to launch the C-3E Initiative. Thirty-two distinguished women leaders in public, private, nonprofit and academia fields gathered to act on a shared passion for women and energy issues. The dinner, sponsored with the generous support of the United Nations Foundation, was an opportunity to declare how each attendee can contribute to this important initiative.

Senior officials in participating governments -- Denmark, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States -- offered pledges and commitments, which will be posted and tracked on a Web 2.0 platform dedicated to C-3E. Some of the best and brightest women in science joined the Department of Energy in pledging something new, innovative, and effective -- for our young women, for our world, for our future. Participating governments agreed to look for ways to support young women seeking advanced degrees in clean energy disciplines with scholarship funds. They also agreed to meet at the next Clean Energy Ministerial conference in June 2011 to discuss how this initiative might be expanded.

As we move forward, I invite and encourage the energy community to join and support our efforts to advance clean energy education empowerment for women around the globe. The Clean Energy Ministerial, running July 19-20, will officially launch the C-3E Initiative and expand the work of the passionate individuals who gathered at Sunday night’s dinner. This is just the beginning.

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