Celebrate Women’s History Month: Leaders in Energy

Mar 16, 2020

I can vividly remember attending my first national energy efficiency conference early on in my career. I was so excited to be present at the event and accept a national award on behalf of my company. As I walked into the networking event, the room was quite literally a sea of older Caucasian males with white hair. 

Fast forward to today. Looking around the room at industry events looks vastly different. The industry continues to draw individuals (young and old) from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders. The diversity that has occurred over the last few decades is wondrous, and my anecdotal experience is that women are increasingly taking on upper-level management and executive roles at companies. In fact, according to Catalyst, more women lead now in the power and utilities industries, and a higher share of women are now working in renewable energy.1 (Although it should also be noted that women are still underrepresented in these industries.)

March is designated Women’s History Month to honor the contributions of women in American history. As such, I thought it would be a great time to share with you a handful of remarkable women that are helping advance energy, efficiency, and renewable energy in the United States.

Remarkable Women in Energy

Linda Stuntz, former Minority Counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Director of DOE’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Analysis, became the first female Deputy Secretary of Energy in 1992. She then went on to become one of the founding partners of the law firm of Stuntz, Davis & Staffier, P.C. in Washington, D.C., where she worked on energy and environmental regulation (as well as other matters) before her retirement at the end of 2018.

Hazel O’Leary, was the first female, and the first African American Secretary of Energy. In 1993, Secretary O’Leary established the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity to ensure a diversified workforce among other key mission areas. O’Leary was the first Energy Secretary to link energy policy decisions to the health and quality of the environment.

Lisa Jackson, former EPA Administrator was the first African American woman to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. She now works to minimize Apple’s impact on the environment by addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources.

Kristen Nicole founded Women In Solar Energy (WISE) in 2011, after recognizing the lack of opportunities for women in energy despite an increasing number of women seeking to enter the field. She has contributed to national efforts in grid integration research, development and energy policy, and other national efforts in solar energy and grid integration of renewables.

Lynn Jurich is the co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Sunrun, a leading US-based provider of residential solar, storage, and energy services. Lynn was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2013, Forbes’ Women to Watch in 2015, and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in 2018. Sunrun won an award for the Best Company Culture 2018, the Best CEO 2018, and the Best Company for Women 2018. 

Laura E. Stachel is the co-founder and the Executive Director of WE CARE Solar, an acronym that stands for Women’s Emergency Communications and Reliable Electricity. Laura believes that “All women have the right to deliver children safely in clinics with reliable lighting and power.” Her non-profit organization manufactures solar power suitcases to provide electricity for underserved maternal health facilities primarily in Africa and other rural regions of the world.

Lynn J. Good is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Duke Energy, one of America's largest energy holding companies. Under Good's leadership, Duke Energy is embracing new technologies and smarter solutions to transform for the future. Fortune magazine lists Good as 19th among the "Most Powerful Women in Business" and Forbes magazine calls her one of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women."

Constance Lau has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) since May 2006. She is a nationally recognized leader in the fields of critical infrastructure, resilience and physical and cyber security, banking, and energy. Since 2012, she has chaired the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). In 2011, Ms. Lau was named “Woman of the Year” by the Women's Council on Energy and the Environment and in 2013, she was named one of Pacific Business News (PBN) “10 to Watch” for her leadership in clean energy and transportation.

Paula Gold-Williams is the President & CEO of CPS Energy, and has more than 30 years of leadership experience in San Antonio. She is a mentor to numerous people inside and outside of CPS Energy, including college students, vice presidents, directors, managers, professionals, and hourly team members. She has a long tenure at CPS Energy, and during her time as Executive Vice President of finance, Gold-Williams helped the municipally-owned utility earn an AA+ rating by Fitch, an AA1 rating by Moody's, and an AA rating by Standard & Poor's. 

As I mentioned earlier, this list is not exhaustive and merely outlines a handful of notable women that have worked to advance energy, efficiency, and renewable energy in the United States. There are many more compelling women, with a passion for this industry, who are working tirelessly to have their innovative strategies utilized. Because of their persistence, they will have a significant impact on the industry. 

1 Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Energy -- Gas, Mining, and Oil (March 29,2019).