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RenewableNI empowering women and inspiring inclusivity

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Picture of Anamika Talwaria

Anamika Talwaria

Editor & Head of Content for Tank Storage Magazine & StocExpo and Chair of Women in Tanks.

Over 100 women from the renewable energy sector gathered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, this week to discuss increasing diversity and inclusion ahead of International Women’s Day 2024. RenewableNI’s Women in Renewables event, in partnership with A&L Goodbody is the only all-female event in UK and Ireland in the renewable industry. Returning for the second year, the event provides a valuable platform to champion female voices and highlight role models.

The RenewableNI all-female event Women In Renewables took place to mark International Women’s Day 2024 – the only event of its type in UK and Ireland. Pictured are (l-r) Jane Fleming, mindest coach; Zoe Crowe, DfE; Ruth Forbes, A&L Goodbody; Sam McCloskey, Simply Blue Group; Eimear O’Reilly, Everun.

Women in Renewables was opened by a keynote speech by Kate Nicholl MLA, Alliance Party spokesperson for Early Years and Childcare. Kate drew on her personal experience as a working mother, addressing the challenges a lack of childcare provision is causing.

Childcare is a major roadblock in career pathways. As part of an event survey RenewableNI found:

  • 87% of women with children altered their working pattern after becoming a mother
  • 61% said that childcare costs had impacted their career
  • 22% of women said they didn’t apply for a job or promotion due to childcare

The lack of childcare provision in Northern Ireland will have longer term impact of society as over a third of women said they had deferred having their first child or had less children than they would have liked due to costs of childcare.

Women In Renewables addressed the issue of women taking on many unrecognised roles and tasks, and the impact this could have. The survey found 28% had a workload that was causing concern. Over half of the women had experienced burnout with another third saying they had ‘come close’.

The women discussed their personal experiences of imposter syndrome, including the need to feel they should say yes to everything or must be ‘the best’ in all areas of their lives. An all-female panel of industry experts, chaired by Ruth Forbes from event partner A&L Goodbody discussed the importance of trailblazers in the industry. They recognised that those women who had great experiences were following in the footsteps of other women who had to battle for rights. The panel, also included Head of Renewable Electricity at the Department for the Economy, Zoe Crowe; Eimear O’Reilly, Head of Professional Services and Projects, Everun ;and Sam Mc Closkey, Country Director, Simply Blue Group.

There was consensus that support from male colleagues and partners had been vital for successful transition and recognising that it didn’t always have to be the female in traditional roles.
Judith Rance, Communications and Events Manager at RenewableNI says: ‘From lawyers, policy makers and academics to engineers, project managers and planners there are hundreds of roles available to women in renewables. The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusivity and it is clear this sector can do that. By promoting their voices, Women In Renewables, allows us to bring many barriers to career advancement out of the shadows. Together we are empowering women in the renewables industry makes changes for the industry and themselves. We need to give women the confidence to apply for jobs, to negotiate pay rises, and stop the inner negative voices from holding them back. It was fantastic to have a lineup of seven women, including our imposter syndrome speaker Jane Fleming, being so honest about their challenges. I would like to thank all of them, and everyone women who attended, for being an inspiration.’

Speaking on the importance of the event to the industry and Northern Ireland, Ruth Forbes, Senior Associate adds: ‘We know that net zero offers significant and positive benefits to our economy and our people. To ensure this growth is inclusive and sustainable, women must be fully included across all roles in the renewable energy sector, particularly in positions of leadership where they have long been under-represented, and where they have so much to offer.’

This year’s Women in Renewables event and the return of an operational Stormont makes it an important opportunity to highlight the significant work that still needs to be done to ensure equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the energy sector.

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