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Women in The Energy Sector: Stories of Success

In the United States, the number of women running businesses grew by 20 percent within the last five years. The number of female senior managers is growing at an even faster rate. The electrical energy sector is not an exception, as there are inspiring women to watch for, and their number is increasing every year.

One of the sectors that have made steady improvements in female leadership is the utility industry. Surprisingly, the S&P 500 companies that provide electricity to the general public have more female leaders than any other sector. In fact, every fifth leader of such a company in the United States is female. The reasons are pretty simple and correspond with the strategies to improve female participation discussed in the previous article. The companies welcome successful female managers from other industries and prioritize developing their female employees to the highest positions in the industry.

Women scientists and entrepreneurs also burst with ideas when it comes to renewable energy startups. When they benefit from equal opportunities, their startups become success stories. Female-led startups are growing in numbers, and the best news is that they are highly innovative and benefit our communities. Let us look at inspiring examples of female CEOS of utility companies and renewable energy startup leaders. 

Female CEO’s of Utility Companies

Patti Poppe of PG&E 

Patti Poppe, the current CEO of The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the largest utility company in the United States by revenue, is the first woman CEO of two Fortune 500 companies. Her previous company, CMS Energy, also deals with utility operations. Poppe, who holds masters' in electrical engineering and management, previously succeeded in a different industry, holding various managerial positions in General Motors for 15 years. She entered the electrical industry as a power plant director of DTE Energy before joining CMS Energy first as a vice-president of customer operations. Poppe. She held the position of CEO at this company between 2016 and 2020 before leaving to join PG&E. An inductee into the Automotive Hall of Fame, Poppe is an example of how leadership in the electrical industry strives when women who succeeded as managers in other industries join in.

Lynn Good of Duke Energy

Lynn Good is the president and CEO of Duke Energy, another Fortune 500 utility company that operates in North Carolina and one of the highest-paid female CEOs in the United States. A master in accounting and systems analysis, she is again an example of a female CEO that entered the utility business after a different successful career. Good became a partner at Cincinnati Gas & Electric years after successfully working with this company as an auditor. She became a vice president of Duke Energy after merging with Cinergy, another utility company where Good has been a top manager, before becoming a CEO in 2013. 

As Duke Energy's leader, she is known as a pioneer in investing in renewable solar energy before it becomes a widespread practice in the business. She also helped to modernize gas infrastructure and reduce the company's carbon emissions by a third. In 2020, she was named #61 on the list of Forbes Power Women.

Female Renewable Energy Startup Leaders

Lynn Jurich of Sunrun

Lynn Jurich is one of the founders and a CEO of Sunrun, a company that provides solar panels and batteries to residential homes in the United States. Founded in 2007, the company aims to give more households access to renewable energy with its service-based model that allows the customers to lease or loan solar energy panels instead of spending a lot of money and buying them. The company is solely responsible for the utility and the maintenance of the panels they sell.

Aside from being prominent for helping the customers gain access to renewable energy sources, Sunrun is also a very successful enterprise that has recently acquired a rival solar company Vivint Solar and created a shared value of $22 billion, becoming the largest residential solar panel company in the USA.

A former venture capitalist, Lynn Jurich is the mind behind Sunrun's concept. She founded the company together with her group mates from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Under her leadership and commitment to renewable energy potential, the company managed to succeed even though the initial concept was considered risky. In 2018, Jurich was included in Fortune magazine 40 Under 40 under the business category.

Jurich is also an example of how female leaders create a chain reaction and motivate other women within the energy industry to become leaders. Sunrun is known for pay equality among its employees, and half of the company's senior management are women.

Eden Full Of The SunSaluter

Eden Full is an example of a new generation of female leaders in the energy industry that can work on their innovative ideas from an early age thanks to the support of their educational institutions. Full is a founder of The SunSaluter, a technology and a non-profitable organization that helps generate clean water with the help of solar energy without using traditional electricity. The startup uses the technology to bring drinking water to developing African countries.

Eden Full has been keen on solar energy and has created solar innovations since her early teens. While attending the university, she received Thiel Foundation's 20 Under 20 Fellowship and got a chance to test her technology in Kenya for the first time. The technology has since won numerous prestigious scientific awards, such as the Westly Prize, and helped to improve access to clean drinking water for the population of 20 countries.

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Women in The Energy Sector: Stories of Success