S3 E6: Women in Power: The C3E Story

March 20, 2019

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Cover art for Direct Current podcast episode, depicting 3D text reading "S3 E6: Women in Power: The C3E Story."
U.S. Department of Energy

Meet the women who are leading a clean energy revolution, with a little help from C3E.

It's part support network, part annual gathering, part awards show — and all about empowerment. For this episode, Direct Current headed to the 2018 U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Symposium, hosted by Stanford Energy in collaboration with the Texas A&M Energy Institute, MIT Energy Initiative, and the Department of Energy.

We talked to the 2018 C3E Award-winners, C3E Ambassadors who help give network members a boost in their careers, and even some of the founding contributors to the U.S. C3E program. Listen to all that and more in the episode, then read on for details about the 2019 C3E Awards!

The Winners

Winners of the 2018 C3E Mid-Career Awards.

The awardees are the real stars of the show at the annual C3E Symposium. Learn about the 2018 C3E Mid-career Award Winners and 2018 C3E Lifeftime Achievement Award Winner Elizabeth Moler.

The 2019 Awards

Award recipients hug at the C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium.

Know someone who's an energy rock star? Think they should be celebrated for their achievements? Here's your chance to help them get the recognition they deserve.

Nominations for the 2019 C3E Awards are open through April 10, 2019. Submit a nomination today!

Logo for the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Initiative.
Transcript: 
(APPLAUSE)
 
DAN BROUILLETTE: Thank you for that. I really appreciate that. Thank you for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be in a room full of badass energy women. (LAUGHTER) It's awesome. 
 
MATT DOZIER: That's Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette, speaking at Stanford University last December.
 
CORT KREER: The event was the 7th Clean Energy Education and Empowerment, or "C3E" Symposium, an annual celebration of the contributions of women to the field of clean energy. 
 
BROUILLETTE: I want to thank all of the leaders here and all of the folks at DOE who spend so much time with this organization, because it's critically important.
 
BROUILLETTE: The evidence of progress is all over this symposium. Just look around the room. I'm deeply inspired by what I see here. And as both awardees and attendees, you have made remarkable — absolutely remarkable — contributions to this clean energy arena.
 
DOZIER: The day was jam-packed with frank discussions of the challenges women face in the workplace. And there was also plenty of optimism and enthusiasm, reflected in the tone of the awards presented throughout the day.
 
(AWARDS SHOW MUSIC WITH HORNS AND HARP)
 
WOMAN: I'd like to introduce Elizabeth Moler, my Aunt Betsy.
 
(APPLAUSE)
 
ELIZABETH MOLER: I'm so honored to be here today and accept C3E's lifetime achievement award. I feel a sense of kinship, or identity, with all the women in this room. Though we as a group are obviously at different stages in our careers, we are all involved in one way or another with the important, growing field of clean energy.
 
(MUSIC FADES DOWN)
 
KREER: Elizabeth Moler is a renowned energy policy expert who worked on Capitol Hill for 20 years and served on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under three different presidents. 
 
DOZIER: As if that wasn't enough, she was appointed Deputy Secretary of Energy in 1997, then spent another decade in the energy industry. As the 2018 C3E lifetime achievement award winner, Moler shared lessons from her life and career, and offered words of encouragement for those in the audience. 
 
MOLER: Like many other fields, the energy is still male-dominated. To be successful, first and foremost you must follow your passion — and hopefully it will be remunerative.
 
(AWARDS SHOW MUSIC SWELLS)
 
MOLER: There's a history in my family of bucking typical role models. You can, and should, too. Follow your passion. Above all, I wish you success and happiness in both your career and your personal life. I have had a well lived, and I hope the same for you. Thank you for this honor.
 
(APPLAUSE)
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
KREER: The other awards went to eight women still in the middle of their own energy career journeys. We talked with some of the winners to hear their stories, which we'll get to later on. 
 
DOZIER: But first, some context. What exactly *is* C3E? An event? An award? A network? Well... yes, yes, and yes. Coming up, we'll hear from someone who's been with the U.S. program from the very beginning, watching it grow from a scrappy whiteboard concept to a vibrant, thriving support system for women in energy.
 
KREER: Stay tuned!
 
(DIRECT CURRENT THEME PLAYS)
 
(CHEERFUL PIANO MUSIC) 
 
DOZIER: So, to better understand what the C3E program is all about, we sat down with one of its founding members.
 
BOB MARLAY: My name is Bob Marlay, and I currently am a senior advisor in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and I'm working on transportation and research and development.
 
KREER: Yep, you heard right. That's Bob Marlay, M-A-R-L-A-Y. And in addition to his history with C3E, Bob's been at the Department of Energy longer than nearly anyone.
 
MARLAY: Yes, I'm kind of a relic almost. I've been with DOE, as they say in the Navy, as a "plank owner." DOE was formed in October 1977, and I was just getting out of the Navy off active duty, and I came to work for DOE as it started up as a new agency. So I've been here since the very beginning, and you can do the math. (LAUGHS)
 
DOZIER: Right. We won't do that right now. So, what does C3E stand for, and what does it mean to you?
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
MARLAY: Yeah. C3E — the C stands for "clean," and the three Es stand for "energy, education, and empowerment." It was launched as an international initiative with a strong U.S. component, and it was really designed to give women, traditionally underrepresented in the energy field, some opportunity. We would like to recruit them, attract them, and once they're there retain them in the field as professionals, and certainly advocate for their advancement and promotion. Ultimately, we'd like to see more of them at the very highest levels of management in the field.
 
KREER: So, how does a program like C3E get started?
 
MARLAY: So, it originated with DOE, and I give a lot of credit to the Secretary of Energy at the time, who was Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate, and Under Secretary Kristina Johnson — who herself I think has like 160 patents in STEM fields. And also David Sandalow, who was the assistant secretary for international affairs.
 
MARLAY: I think what they were responding to, particularly in the international field, is that lots of women throughout the world were yearning for opportunity to work in this new and emerging field called clean energy, but there weren't opportunities. There were a lot of barriers to entry, and then once they got in, I think that they felt like they were not given the recognition or the opportunity to advance. Having a big idea, though, is one thing. Having something that you can implement, get traction and have meaningful impact is another. And that's kind of another story.
 
(UPBEAT MUSIC WITH ACOUSTIC GUITAR AND DRUMS)
 
DOZIER: In 2010, the Energy Department put together focus groups of accomplished women from the energy field and beyond — one even featured an Indy 500 racecar driver. Their goal was to take the "big idea" of C3E internationally and turn it into a program for the U.S. with clear objectives and effective tools to help women find success in male-dominated industries.
 
KREER: The focus groups identified several main barriers to success for women in clean energy — starting with the challenge of breaking into the field. What opportunities were available? How could women find out about those jobs? 
 
DOZIER: Within the industry, they found that women often struggled to gain recognition for their work, making it hard to advance their careers. And those obstacles contributed to a third big issue: women leaving the field before reaching leadership roles.
 
KATIE JEREZA: We discovered that there was a real gap in the mid-level career women, and that there was a lot of energy around attracting women into the clean energy space, but we noticed through those focus groups and some of the studies that women tended to drop out.
 
KREER: That's Katie Jereza.
 
JEREZA: I'm the deputy assistant secretary for transmission permitting and technical assistance in the Office of Electricity. 
 
KREER: Katie also goes way back with C3E. Back in 2010, she was a consultant to the Energy Department tasked with kickstarting a new program for women in clean energy. She was the one who organized the focus groups.
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
JEREZA: Actually, I think it's since the 80s, we have the same percentage of women working in the industry as we did around 2010. And so we thought wow, that's not good, so why don't we try to fill that gap and see if we can get women to stay in the industry, and also shine a light on them so they can gain some visibility. 
 
KREER: In the end, they settled on four key ways this new initiative could make a difference for women in clean energy, which would eventually become the four "pillars" of C3E's U.S. program. 
 
DOZIER: First, there was the symposium — an annual meeting infused with positivity and enthusiasm. There were awards to give women well-deserved recognition. There were C3E Ambassadors to provide mentorship and advice. And the C3E community at large, offering a critical network of support. 
 
KREER: We want to take you through those four main elements, in the words of some of the women who were at the 2018 Symposium. And what better place to start than the Symposium itself?
 
(SOFT, UPBEAT PIANO MUSIC)
 
SALLY BENSON: We have so many amazing women who work in the energy field, but almost never do we really get together, and it's really special to be able to get all the women together and celebrate women's accomplishments. And then for me, being at a university, is providing role models and inspiration for our students.
 
BENSON: I'm Sally Benson, I'm a professor of energy resources engineering, and I'm the co-director of our Energy Institute here at Stanford.
 
DOZIER: Sally was one of the hosts of the 2018 C3E symposium, which has also been hosted by MIT in years past and will move to Texas A&M University in 2019. Stanford, MIT, and Texas A&M co-run the U.S. C3E program with the Department of Energy. 
 
KREER: Sally said clean energy shares many of the challenges of other industries mostly run by men, but the sheer scale of the energy sector makes it a vital target for improving gender equity.
 
BENSON: The energy system is so integral to our lives, I mean, 10 percent of the global economy is in energy, but our lives are completely positively impacted by access to energy. So I think this is a uniquely important area for societal progress and human well-being. So, finding a way to connect women to achieving the benefits that a clean, sustainable energy system can provide is really important.
 
KREER: At a reception the evening before the big event, Sally gave participants a charge: this is your chance to be bold.
 
BENSON: I challenged people to make this a conference like no other conference — to have discussions that you wouldn't normally have in public, to say something that normally you would hesitate and hold back — and what for me was so extraordinary is that all the women speakers, they delivered. 
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
DOZIER: Among the speakers who took the stage throughout the day were energy industry luminaries, scientists, and entrepreneurs, including Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine.
 
VALERIE MONTGOMERY RICE: Diversifying your workforce is going to make a big difference. Who sits around the table really does matter, particularly as we are trying to change the world, which is what you're going to need to do in order to have clean energy, believe me.
 
KREER: Diversity and equity in the clean energy sector were prominent themes at the 2018 symposium. 
 
MELANIE SANTIAGO-MOSIER: This whole conference is about empowering women, and I think that today's conference has actually been quite a bit about equity and more accessibility and more inclusiveness as we go about this work. I identify with the need for that, very, very deeply. As a woman in energy, it's definitely been very challenging in some ways. As a Latina, I've just always sensed this added layer of mistrust, of lack of confidence, so I really feel strongly that there's a lot of work to do, and C3E is leading the way.
 
DOZIER: Melanie Santiago-Mosier is the program director for access and equity at Vote Solar, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for solar-friendly policies at the state level. She said her interactions with other folks in just the short time at the symposium sparked a host of new ideas and connections.
 
SANTIAGO-MOSIER: Yeah, actually, I have had several conversations today. It's amazing. There are a number of women here today who are interested in the work that I'm doing, and we're finding that there are interesting intersections with my work and their work, and we're already starting to think about hey, how can we get together, how can we build on each other's work? How can we get connected?
 
TANIA LADEN: I think that that's the point of bringing together people from so many diverse sectors and backgrounds, is you do spark ideas. Someone may not have even thought about the applications of clean energy technologies in the development setting.
 
KREER: That's Tania Laden, executive director of Livelihoods.
 
LADEN: At Livelihoods, we train youth and women in the slums of Kenya to sell clean energy products door to door, and they sell those products on consignment so they don't have to take out loans or have any up-front capital, but they can earn an income and gain valuable professional skills.
 
KREER: On top of the collaborative power of C3E, Tania said she heard another message at the symposium that gave her pause.
 
LADEN: People kept saying, if you're here and you're a woman in this room, don't leave this field. 
 
(SLOW, THOUGHTFUL GUITAR MUSIC WITH REVERB)
 
LADEN: And I'm in the middle of a transition, I'm thinking about what to do next, and it definitely had an impact on my thinking today. Thinking, OK, maybe I should be looking for something within this field rather than leaving. So that was one big takeaway I had.
 
KREER: Both Melanie and Tania received C3E mid-career awards at the symposium in December, in the Advocacy and International categories, respectively. 
 
(MUSIC SWELLS WITH PERCUSSION)
 
DOZIER: The awardees are the real stars of the show, receiving thunderous standing ovations and an $8,000 cash prize. Melanie said it's even a little overwhelming, but she's excited about the opportunities the award can open up.
 
SANTIAGO-MOSIER: Also personally, I am just really, really excited what I can do with this award, because I really have a deep personal passion about advancing women in clean energy — and particularly women of color in clean energy. We've got statistics that talk about how women of color really have a lot of challenges when it comes to being hired, being recruited and retained, and advancing in clean energy. We know this is the case in solar, so I am just really thrilled that I can use this award to put toward some specific research on how to do those things in the solar industry.
 
KREER: So, how are winners selected each year? Sally Benson walks us through it.
 
BENSON: So, every year we go through this nomination process, and honestly we get a slate of really incredible people. I think the ones that really stand out are the ones that have done something that they really created their own pathway — that they invented something that nobody did before. 
 
KREER: One such trailblazer is Molly Morse, CEO and cofounder of Mango Materials, who took home the 2018 mid-career award in the Entrepreneurship category.
 
MORSE: We take waste methane gas and make biodegradable materials. We do this by using bacteria. The bacteria eat the methane and they produce a biopolymer inside their cell walls, which we then harvest and use as a substitute for conventional plastics.  
 
DOZIER: Mango Materials' production process is unconventional in almost every respect, which Molly said has been challenging — but also a key part of the company's vision.
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
MOLLY MORSE: Well, first off, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into when we started the company, but the truth of the matter is the way we use and dispose of not just plastics but many everyday materials is a travesty to our environment. So we really need to rethink the way we make things.
 
MORSE: Plastics are amazing materials. I don't want to bash them too much because our lives would not be what they are without them. But unfortunately, there are these dire environmental consequences that come from their manufacture and their use. So we had this vision to transform things and really change the way plastics are made, and the fate of materials on the planet.
 
KREER: She said the C3E award is proof that others believe in their mission — a welcome boost on a long, arduous journey.
 
MORSE: If you're running a marathon or an ultra-marathon and you have a big hill, and you have someone cheering for you loudly at the top of the hill, that makes a difference. Your time might be better or you might feel less pain while you're going through it. So yes, it does change things.
 
DOZIER: That metaphor also works for other paths, like, say, a career in science. The C3E awards work to cheer on mid-career women during a phase when many encounter "big hills" in the way of things like promotion or tenure. 
 
KREER: Those who make it over the hill, stay in the field. Those who don't, often leave. For instance, a recent study showed that more than 40% of women with full-time jobs in science leave the sector or go part-time after having their first child.
 
ALISSA PARK: There's a huge gender gap, but also a generation gap. So how to merge those gaps together is very important for our future, in my opinion. And as a mid-career, what they are calling me, that I think we become a very important bridge. Because we don't want to lose all the expertise in senior level — at the same time, we need to pull our juniors up and then connect them together. 
 
DOZIER: That's Dr. Alissa Park, winner of the 2018 mid-career Research award.
 
PARK: I'm a faculty member in engineering at Columbia University. I'm also the director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.
 
DOZIER: Alissa was the first female faculty member in her department. She became the director of the center about four years ago and used the opportunity to explore big new ideas about carbon capture, energy storage, and sustainability. And, like many of the awardees, she's coming to grips with the idea of being a "mid-career" professional.
 
PARK: It's kind of funny. In academia, they usually call you junior faculty before your tenure. As soon as you get tenure, they start you calling you senior. I'm like, "Uh, I don't think so! Not yet." (LAUGHS) So mid-career is a good word, I think. It's good to see a lot of mid-career people here. As you saw, here all the awardees, not only that, participants, I think there's a great energy in this room and in this meeting, so I'd like to leverage all these good connections I made today.
 
(LIVELY, OPTIMISTIC PIANO MUSIC)
 
KREER: It's important that we take a moment to acknowledge the contributions of the C3E Ambassadors, who Bob Marlay called the "anchors" of the program.
 
DOZIER: Officially, they're the third pillar of C3E, but it's safe to say that none of the rest of the program would exist without their efforts.
 
KREER: They're the ones who serve as mentors to the more junior members of the network, they help run the symposium and find sponsors, they judge the awards every year. And they do it all on a volunteer basis.
 
MARLAY: These are women who are very much recognized in their fields. They are very willing to contribute and donate their time and attention to encouraging women to succeed in the field. I won't name names, but I'm always humbled by the folks that are on our ambassadors list.
 
DOZIER: He won't name names, but we will. Bob is an ambassador, as is Sally Benson, along with around 30 others — mostly women, all established experts and senior leaders in clean energy.
 
KREER: Katie Jereza recently became an ambassador when she rejoined the Department of Energy after several years in the private sector. And not only that, but she's now leading the program for the agency.
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)
 
JEREZA: I was so thrilled when I came back to the Department of Energy in a leadership position, and then was asked to come back to C3E as an ambassador. With the change of administration, the ambassador who was leading the program had moved on, and so they were looking for a new leader. Since I knew so much about the program, and I still knew many of the ambassadors, it would be a natural fit. 
 
DOZIER: Katie said she remembers the support she got from the ambassadors early on — the way it made her feel valued, like someone important had her back. Today, she's working to boost that support network even further.
 
JEREZA: My favorite part is when we come together once a year for the Symposium. It's a celebration of who we are and what we've accomplished, and where we're going. It's all about empowerment and what we can do to advance. And that, to me, is just super exciting. And then each year to see the other ambassadors, we have some competition — so what have you done? What have you done lately? And the stories we hear are very inspiring.
 
DOZIER: Most of the ambassadors are women, but there have traditionally been a few men involved. I asked Bob about that.
 
DOZIER: So Bob, you are a man.
 
MARLAY: That is true.
 
DOZIER: Why am I talking to you about women in energy?
 
MARLAY: Well, I'm hoping that you're not just talking to me (LAUGHS). There are really good people out there that should also be talking, and I'm sure they're going to be part of your podcast. But it was very important that, yes, we wanted to encourage women to become more represented in the field, but we did not want it to be exclusionary. So I happened to be a founding ambassador, one of two men, and very honored and privileged to play that role.
 
DOZIER: Right, and I guess to follow on to that, the business of increasing the representation of women in energy, or in any field, is not a burden that is solely on the shoulders of women, right?
 
MARLAY: It takes a community effort, for sure. I think having a program like this, which signals high-level support, these things are very encouraging to women, to say that this is a sanctioned activity and that men should take notice and participate enthusiastically. So this all helps.
 
(CONTEMPLATIVE, RISING VIOLIN AND PIANO MUSIC)
 
KREER: Probably the biggest thing the Ambassadors, and everyone else involved in C3E, are trying to create is this broader sense of community among women in clean energy — besides driving a global energy transition, that is.
 
BENSON: Well, of course we want everyone to achieve — you know, sustainable energy for all, we want to get rid of carbon emissions, we want the billions of people who don't have access to electricity to have access to electricity. We want electricity to be affordable. All of those things. I guess more immediate and tangible, I would like this community to really become a community. I would like it if they could leverage the full suite of talent and capability — the network — and really use the network to create transformational change.
 
DOZIER: Many of the speakers at the symposium, Sally included, highlighted the importance of supporting younger colleagues through mentorship — talking *to* someone to pass down knowledge — but also sponsorship; in other words, talking *about* them with others.
 
KREER: That vote of confidence, whether it's a casual mention to a colleague, a professional recommendation, or a nomination for an award, can change someone's whole career trajectory.
 
JEREZA: Yes. Yes. That makes so much of a difference, cause a lot of times I think it's just about being at the table or being thought of in the first place. Many times, I see a reaction where you'll mention a name, and then you'll see a change in their face and they'll go, "Oh yeah, she would be great!" Those are the moments that just really make my day.
 
DOZIER: And that's what C3E really comes down to. It's more than a conference, it's more than awards, more than a network... It's a slingshot. A springboard. 
 
KREER: It's a rising tide, and a strong tailwind. It's someone cheering you on at the top of that steep hill. And for women like Melanie Santiago-Mosier, getting connected is just the beginning.
 
SANTIAGO-MOSIER: Sometimes women hear our demons quite clearly. And these demons tell us that we're not good enough, we're not smart enough, we're not strong enough — but just knowing that I won the award has boosted my self-confidence tremendously. I'm just excited about being part of this network going forward, being able to communicate with other women in this network freely, draw on expertise, learn from each other — I think this is going to be a really amazing experience.
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT, FADE IN SOFT ELECTRONIC OUTRO MUSIC)
 
KREER: Thanks and congratulations to Elizabeth Moler, Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Tania Laden, Molly Morse, and Alissa Park for their recognition at this year's C3E symposium. 
 
DOZIER: Congratulations as well to the rest of the 2018 awardees: Lauren Cochran, for Law & Finance; Aimee Barnes, Government; Libby Wayman, Business; and Lilo Pozzo, Education.
 
KREER: Thank you to Katie Jereza, Sally Benson, and Bob Marlay for contributing to this episode, and to all of the C3E Ambassadors for lifting up and empowering women in renewable energy.  
 
DOZIER: And special thanks to Melissa Pauley for her work to make C3E a success.
 
DOZIER: Be sure to follow @C3E_EnergyWomen on Twitter, read about these inspiring awardees on c3eawards.org, and watch for the 2019 Symposium at Texas A&M. We'll have links to all that stuff on energy.gov/podcast.
 
KREER: And as always, if you've got a question or want to leave us some feedback, email us at directcurrent@hq.doe.gov, or tweet @energy. And if you're enjoying the show, share it with a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. We read them, and we listen.
 
KREER: Direct Current is produced by Matt Dozier, Paul Lester, and me, Cort Kreer. I also create original artwork for every episode, which you can find on our website. 
 
DOZIER: Additional support from AnneMarie Horowitz, Ernie Ambrose, Gigi Frias, and Atiq Warraich. We’re a production of the U.S. Department of Energy and published from our nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C.
 
KREER: Thanks for listening!
 
(MUSIC FADES OUT)