A tech entrepreneur, a physicist, and an engineer - what do they all have in common? They’re all women smashing the glass ceiling in science and technology, making giant leaps for renewable energy!
Here are our top picks:
At 19, Jessica Matthews invented a football. And not just any football - this one generates electricity from the force of being kicked around. She’s now the brain behind Uncharted Play. It aims to put renewable energy generation in all sorts of everyday items, so the next time you wheel a shopping trolley, push a pram, or swing a jump rope, you could be creating clean energy!
In an industry where less than 1% of funding to support new companies goes to black women, Matthews has raised $7 million USD to fund Uncharted Play - the most money raised by a black woman, ever!
Monica Oliphant was the only female to complete her honours degree in her physics class. In 1971, she returned to work as a research assistant when her husband died, leaving her with two young daughters. And what an amazing decision what was for renewable energy! Oliphant became a solar pioneer, dedicating 18 years of her career to furthering the progress of solar power in Australia, where it is now hugely popular in households.
Now in her 70s, Oliphant is still working on making solar a household name - her latest project is trying to start a university in China for renewable energy training!
Born in Ukraine two weeks before the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1986, Inna Braverman feels the quest for renewable energy on a personal level. As a baby, she nearly died from a respiratory illness caused by the explosion. She wanted to make energy generation safer, so she turned to renewables.
At 25, she co-founded Eco Wave Power in an energy sector that’s heavily dominated by males. Buoys attach to quays and jetties, using the movement of waves to generate energy.
Braverman’s secret? “Believe in yourself; if you have a great idea and passion – go for it. Passion is the greatest source of renewable energy.”
The Barefoot Engineers
At this college, almost every student is poor. Some are illiterate. But all of them have one thing in common: they’re training to become solar engineers. The idea behind Barefoot college is simple: train women as engineers, transform communities, and solve poverty.
When they return from college, they light up their villages. In places like India, where 44% of rural households have no access to power, the college has been life changing. Children can study past sunset, locals save money on expensive kerosene, and people can continue producing things for sale long after dark.
The Barefoot college has now trained over 900 ‘solar mamas’ from 81 countries across the world. And by solving the problem of access to energy through the empowerment of women, Barefoot college is tackling issues of gender inequality as well. Meaghan Fallone, the CEO of Barefoot College, says: “If you find a solution for a woman, she will find a solution for her family and community and her country.”
Alleviating poverty, tackling social disparity and levelling the gender playing field - one engineer at a time.
Women in science and technology
Women currently make up only 21% of the science, technology, engineering and maths workforce in the UK - the lowest percentage of any country in Europe. 50,000 female students are lost to other industries every year. But extra female scientists could bring an extra £2 billion to our economy.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime - but tackling it isn’t just a case of developing new technology. It also requires social and cultural change, and that means building a culture where women can flourish in science and tech. Making women key custodians of the push for renewable energy is the lynchpin of a cleaner, fairer world - not just for climate change, but for gender equality and community cohesion.
The good news is that 13,000 more women were added to the workforce in 2016. Many hands make light work, and energy companies are realising that the key to growth is through active recruitment of women.
The future is bright - and female!
This blog post is funded by our pals at Ben & Jerry’s