The Department of Energy’s Office of International Affairs is empowering women in STEM to make a difference. One example is an Energy Department-supported project that provides renewable energy leaders the skills and training they need to succeed.
With the backing of the Office of International Affairs, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) funded a project called "Empowering Women as Managers of the Renewable Energy Sector". The project worked with women across the Asia-Pacific region in renewable energy careers, offering six months of online training and mentoring followed by a week-long workshop in Singapore last fall (October 29 – November 2), all aimed at accelerating their professional development and career advancement in the energy sector. Consultants Renewables Academy AG, Nedwork Foundation, and SD Strategies implemented the project.
The training focused on increasing their knowledge of renewable energy technologies, markets, business plan development, and gender awareness for the impacts of energy policy. The initial training program included 50 mid-career participants from 11 APEC economies, through a competitive process final candidates proceeded to mentoring and business plan development.
Ultimately, 14 finalists (from Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) were selected to further develop their business plans for a renewable energy project and pitch their business ideas before an evaluation committee with senior experts and key stakeholders at a workshop in Singapore. The committee’s feedback on content and delivery will enable the women to strengthen their projects and pursue them in their home economies, with the new skills developed throughout the workshop.
One participant, Viviana Avalos, developed a business plan during the training to implement a waste to energy plant to treat waste from Santiago, Chile, to produce clean energy. She’s been studying this field for the last two years, and the seminar gave her the opportunity to get self-confidence to pull off a business plan from start to finish and buffed up her finance skills. “I feel very lucky because I see all the opportunities that we have… thinking about gender and energy gives me a lot to think about and all the opportunities we can use for ourselves,” Viviana said.
“I was very inspired for developing my business idea because I grew up in a very small town in Mexico and I was surrounded by a lot of indigenous communities,” said participant Jacqueline Sanchez. “A lot of women still cook their meals with firewood every day and they spend around 5-6 hours per day [on cooking]… after working in renewable energy and being involved in sustainability and environment I was able to see that there are options for women to have access to cleaner technologies. They can still be happy cooking and they don’t have to be inhaling black carbon which can be bad for their health.”
Jacqueline attended the APEC Empowering Women and Managers of the Renewable Energy program, squeezing in online trainings over six months along with her regular day work and fitness routines. “I wanted to be very updated with my career and continue developing on renewable energy,” she said. “I would like to keep engaging with different groups with women and it is very interesting to continue passing the word that there are all these programs for women.”
One participant of the program has already formed a company of her own and secured investors for her business idea. Several participants committed to finding ways to establish mentoring networks in their own economies and ways to share their experiences and knowledge gained. All of the initial 50 participants were invited to join an alumni network to continue peer-to-peer engagement and mentoring after the program conclusion.
This effort supports APEC and US goals to foster women’s full economic participation in the energy sector.