Why the future of Scotland’s energy sector is green – and female

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted both strengths and weaknesses in our way of life and now there is a “huge opportunity” to create a fairer and more sustainable society going forward.

A female engineer at work
A female engineer at work

To do that requires bold actions with a focus on caring for the environment and ending inequalities, according to Lesley Laird, director of Equate Scotland, which works to support the advancement of women in the science, engineering, technology and construction industries.

Figures suggest women currently make up around 28 per cent of workers in the renewable energy sector and just 15 per cent in construction.

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That needs to change, Laird believes. She says all organisations, even those that have traditionally been male-dominated, benefit from having women in the workforce.

“We need to be radical in our recovery plans, build back better and recognise where the opportunities lie,” she said.

“Covid-19 has taught us a great deal and shown us we can adapt very quickly. Lockdown also saw a lot of reflection on issues of inequality.

“We need to break down institutional notions and create the right culture.

“We want to encourage a new generation of women to consider renewables and the green sector, because that’s where the demand is going to be, nationally and globally. That’s where the well-paid jobs will be. The future is green.”

The impact of coronavirus restrictions has been devastating for many industries, with thousands of businesses collapsing and workers losing their livelihoods.

But there are signs of optimism in renewable energy, with a number of jobs advertised across Scotland.

One firm alone, Arcus, an environmental, planning and engineering consultancy firm with offices in Glasgow, York and Cape Town, is seeking to recruit 15 new staff into a range of roles – from ecologists and ornithologists to landscape architects and engineers.

The company, which specialises in high-profile and potentially sensitive renewable energy, water and waste projects, already employs a number of women and supports equality.

Industry leaders have welcomed the increasing number of women opting to work in renewables, which has a greater proportion of female staff than across the energy sector as a whole.

Claire Mack, chief executive of membership body Scottish Renewables, said: “As a woman working in renewables I’m heartened every day to see others forging the same path, making careers in the new energy system and joining us in the race to meet our net-zero targets.

“While energy has traditionally been male-dominated, the feeling in our industry is different.

“Our members show time and again – through their actions, not just their words – that they’re striving to put diversity at the heart of their workplaces and projects.

“We have female wind turbine technicians working offshore, female lawyers leading the renewable energy departments of their firms, and female environmental consultants getting out into the hills and working to achieve planning consent for the projects which are helping reduce the carbon emissions which cause climate change.”

The organisation is introducing a new Culture Change Award at this year’s Young Professionals Green Energy Awards this year, designed to recognise individuals with a passion for changing workplace culture for the better.

She added: “With a new energy industry comes a new mindset, and it’s one that I believe will build a better future for us all.”

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