I’ve worked in the renewable energy industry for two decades. When I first started out in solar back in the ’90s, very few women were working in the field. One of my goals was to encourage more women to join us. For 10 years, I helped teach a women’s PV course for Solar Energy International and had the honor of meeting, teaching, and watching hundreds of women enter the industry.
Across the globe, I have seen our “solar sisters” take on and excel in a variety of roles—as installers, designers, crew leaders, engineers, instructors, project developers and managers, sales and marketing representatives, and educators. I am always excited to see and learn about their latest endeavors and accomplishments. Many of these smart, talented, and inspiring individuals are key players in continuing to move the solar industry forward.
As Home Power’s senior technical editor, I attend major solar industry business-to-business events around the country. At each one, I excitedly step onto the conference floor and marvel at the aisles upon aisles of solar equipment. I look forward to seeing old friends, meeting new colleagues, and learning about recent equipment and innovation trends.
Unfortunately, one disappointing trend is the objectification of women that is increasingly apparent at these conferences. This “booth babe” culture is at odds with the progressive character and the integrity of the solar industry I joined two decades ago. And each year, it seems to get a little bit worse. An exhibitor at a recent event went as far as displaying women in a cage, dressed in torn catsuits with whips.
Scantily clad women hired by solar companies to draw attention to their products have no place in our industry. This isn’t the 1950s. These marketing techniques are inappropriate and unprofessional. Not only does this type of display make me uncomfortable, it also deflates my enthusiasm and excitement for the event. In fact, once I know where the offending booths are, I tend to avoid those areas of the conference floor as much as possible.
As the mother of an 8-year-old girl who is already showing a keen interest in science, it’s disheartening that, with the current “booth babe” culture, I wouldn’t consider taking her to a solar conference. I am hopeful that event organizers will recognize the negative impact of these sexist marketing stunts, and will encourage a more professional atmosphere at solar industry events in the future.
—Justine Sanchez, for the Home Power crew
“There have been fantastic efforts over the years from various groups to promote the role of women in the industry, but it is time for the industry to make this effort formal, both to stop the ‘booth babe’ culture and to work hard to create compelling careers for women in solar energy.”
—Kristen Nicole, Women in Solar Energy • solwomen.org