In Women's History Month, Leaders Past and Present Converge


Project Manager, Technology to Market, NYSERDA

March is Women’s History Month and like every year, I find myself reflecting on the women who have come before me – those whose leadership inspired many and have graced the pages of the history books, and those who took a quieter path, but had an impact, nonetheless. I also find myself looking to the future. It’s not exactly breaking news that women have an uphill battle in the startup industry, but there is good news for cleantech companies. Women lead in much greater numbers at mission-oriented companies and if you, as a cleantech company leader, recruit with your mission out front, you can help close the gender gap.

We’ve all worked with talented, inspiring, effective women across all levels in different organizations. The 2018 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report shows, and my own experience bears out, that women in leadership roles are represented at much higher rates in mission-driven organizations. In my own backyard it’s true: the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, a leading voice in the national and global conversation on climate solutions, is led by CEO and President Alicia Barton.

Thirty-six percent of non-profit organizations with budgets over $50 million are headed by women. Well below parity, 36 percent is a telling insight. According to a TechCrunch article published last September, just 13 percent of startup CEOs are women and women receive just 9 percent of venture capital money in the United States. There are no shortage of theories as to why this is the case – it’s the pipeline, the culture, unconscious bias – the list goes on.

The cleantech community has a real opportunity to lead on this front. CEBIP is home to several women-led startups who are pioneering how we manage excess food waste, rehabilitate brownfields, and reach a clean energy future. Climate change is inarguably the central issue of our time -- with global consequences it is a strong issue to lead your organization’s mission with.

I encourage you CEBIP partners, as mission-driven leaders, to consider recruiting with a strong mission out front. It will help you attract a workforce that better reflects your customers and one that is equally passionate about your company’s mission. Given that women are represented at higher rates in mission driven organizations, it is just good business.

As startup founders, make no mistake, you are job creators. The responsibility to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce falls to each of us. So, this month, honor the women who have come before us by taking action. Promote women to your leadership team. Invest in women. Work for women-led companies. Invite women to serve on your board.