On International Women’s Day, we’re recognizing the increasingly vital role that women are playing in shaping the solar industry. As solar continues to grow, so do the numbers of women in solar–and in positions that have been traditionally male. Still, there’s a way to go as women make up anywhere from 20-30% of the jobs in the industry.
Here are a few of the women who work at A&R Solar. They come from different backgrounds and have experience in many different industries. They explain why they chose solar as a career and how they find meaning in their daily work. Looking for a job? Here are our current openings.
Deb was a preschool teacher who found ANEW, which helped her gain experience to get into the trades.
The best part about working in solar: I enjoy working in solar because I get to work with my hands and spend my day outdoors. Also, there is such a great sense of accomplishment when finishing a solar installation.
Challenges: When I first started as an installer, I had a lot of difficulty with some of the more physically demanding tasks. As the only female roof tech, it was frustrating to see others easily complete tasks that I struggled with. Now I’ve made vast improvements in my ability to carry panels, bend conduit, and set up ladders. Sometimes I still have to ask for help, and that’s okay too.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: First off, just do it. It’s well known that women tend to apply for jobs only if they feel they’re 100% qualified. Don’t wait until you think you are totally qualified. The solar industry is changing so fast anyway, that there will be plenty to learn on the job no matter what you already know.
Secondly, find people who will support you and whom you can support. I probably wouldn’t have started at A&R without first completing ANEW’s pre-apprenticeship program. Then taking SEI’s PV201 class during Women’s Week gave me so much confidence, as well as a community of women who stay in contact. This is more than just networking about job opportunities (although there is some of that), this is about having people who are there for each other through joys and struggles.
Welcome Team Associate
COVID derailed Hannah’s career in 2020. She was already concerned about climate change, so looking for a job in solar made sense to her.
The best part about working in solar: I think the best part of working in solar in general is knowing that my efforts are contributing to a common cause of creating a livable future, but that’s doubled by working in solar at A&R because we provide no-strings educational sessions to people who are curious. Sometimes they will end up looking into energy efficiency improvements, without going solar soon, and that too is a meaningful contribution to lifting ourselves out of the mess we’ve made with non-renewable energy sources.
Challenges: I suppose the challenge for me will ultimately be in carving out my niche in solar in the future. I love my present job and I’m not seeking a promotion, but I do wonder where I fit in the broader scheme of things later. That’s probably compounded by being female, only because I do not see (m)any females outside certain departments. But we’ll see!
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: My advice is to find a company you’re proud to be part of that values dedication and promotes from within. I think there is a lot of room to grow within this burgeoning industry, so rather than get hung up on not having the requisite chops to get the job of your dreams, focus on choosing a durable, employee-focused company and get in at a more entry-level.
Anna had been interested in becoming an electrician but ended up doing an unpaid 3-month pre-apprenticeship through ANEW to gain some experience and knowledge in joining the trades.
The best part about working in solar: The best part about working in solar is that the job sites are usually in beautiful areas and the customers are usually very excited about their projects. Additionally, the solar workforce of all the construction trades, in my experience, has been the most encouraging and accepting.
Challenges: The install side of solar can be incredibly physically demanding, working in high places and training your body to work on many different angles. You need to be athletic, positive, and disciplined, and you’re going to get dirty, climb in some less-than-desirable places, and deal with being in all sorts of elements. Restroom access can be challenging and messy. Your clothes will get completely soaked no matter how rain resistant they are.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: I want to stress that this career path is also very rewarding and fun. Despite the challenges, it has been a very fun adventure of comradery, perseverance, and the satisfaction of building something with your hands that will help someone find energy independence. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in solar, my advice is to invest in quality gear for your safety and comfort. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from others in the industry, as the solar community is supportive and willing to help newcomers.
Solar Design Consultant
Isabelle is a Certified Passive House Tradesperson and Sustainable Home Professional. Moving into solar was a natural next step.
The best part about working in solar: The high level of technical knowledge that the sales team (and all teams) have is big for me. I’m curious and like to know how and why things work. A&R is seriously committed to growth in all ways and I’m definitely a lifelong learner. Also, the trust and autonomy I have within my job along with the amazing support of my coworkers makes the job really fun and rewarding.
Challenges: I’ve had my fair share of challenges in the building industry and in some ways have gotten a tough skin, although I shouldn’t have had to. I can now quickly tell when I’m being judged for being a female in the trades and sometimes the fact that I look young has added to it. Small things happen all the time. Like when I ask a question at a hardware store and the sales clerk responds to the man I’m with, and I can tell when a man is overexplaining something that I doubt he would do if I were male. I love it when I meet customers who are clearly excited that I’m a female working in solar. A&R is an extremely supportive place for women to work and I feel honored to work for a company that understands the importance of equality in all ways.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: DO IT! The more the better. We can shift this industry and the ones who have come before are here with open arms. If you are unsure if this is the right industry for you, then I recommend reaching out to one of us for an informational interview. I would be happy to meet for a cup of coffee and answer any questions you might have.
Working in the world of nonprofits for years, Reenie found a natural extension of her desire to combat climate change.
The best part about working in solar: The best parts for me are the excellence of the company & coworkers and contributing to a solution for a carbon-neutral/free alternative energy source.
Challenges: Public often receives patently false info from salespeople, tactics, & companies that are not customer satisfaction & service driven.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: There are so many possibilities – research companies so you can be proud and respect where you work & your coworkers; analyze your educational background, work & volunteer experience to know your transferable skills that make you an asset in solar positions that you are interested in.
Sara used her sales background to move into solar.
The best part about working in solar: Knowing you are making a positive impact on the planet and in the lives of individuals in our community.
Challenges: Solar is a fast-paced industry, and it can be tricky to keep up with all the new tech, regulations, policies, etc. I find that working to develop trusting relationships with others in the industry and approaching situations with curiosity and willingness to learn helps everyone keep up with the latest news and work together to collaboratively solve problems.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: There are so many ways to get started in solar: installation, sales, distribution, client success, and financing. Follow your passion!
Welcome Team Manager
Danielle had no prior experience in solar. She just applied for an entry-level position.
The best part about working in solar: Being part of a renewable future.
Challenges: The solar coaster is always changing! And as a woman, sometimes I feel like folks on the other end of the phone don’t take me seriously and just want to talk to a man who they believe has more authority.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: Just do it! Don’t be intimidated by the lack of women in the field; your joining will inspire others.
Commercial Operations Manager
Kelly was a chemical engineer who took project management courses. From there, she moved into solar.
The best part about working in solar: Knowing that what you spend your time on during the workday makes a positive difference for the world! Plus there is a product you can see after all your hard work and solar panels are sexy!
Challenges: The industry is constantly changing, so staying up to speed on new products and trends can be a challenging task! But it ultimately keeps the work interesting. Like many other construction and technical industries, there aren’t as many women as there are men in most functions, and at times it can be challenging to feel like your voice is heard and that you belong. Just know that you do belong, there are others who struggle with the same feelings, and that working together & supporting each other is the way through!
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: Get into it yesterday! The demand for solar is only going to grow and the industry offers many different opportunities that I think would interest people with a variety of backgrounds. Research potential careers, take free solar classes online, and reach out to people in the industry to ask questions about their roles and experience to help you figure out the best way to get into the industry for you. As Isabelle mentioned, I’d recommend reaching out to one of us for an informational interview. I would personally be happy to meet for a cup of coffee to answer any questions anyone might have.
Residential Project Manager
Tina worked in a role that had her working with construction permits. It was an easy jump into solar.
The best part about working in solar: The best feeling is that your job is actually making the world a better place!
Challenges: While working in a male-dominated field in construction is challenging, we are breaking the mold by entering the renewable energy field. A lot of the technology is new and continues to develop, and we will help build the next generation of the workforce.
Advice to other women considering a career in solar: Unlimited job types from installation to CEO, and the career growth path is amazing. And there are amazing support groups in the solar industry.