In conversation with the successful Chloe Munro Scholarship 2022 recipients, who will all be undertaking a leadership course delivered by Education Provider, Women & Leadership Australia.
Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally
My name is Mio and I’m an electrical engineer, salesperson, wife and dog mum. I’m also a lover of good food and Victorian-era romance novels. I’ve worked in the renewables industry for about 12 years now, across three continents, and I’m proud to say I spend my professional days trying to contribute to solving the climate crisis.
In my personal life, I try to walk the talk – I usually walk to buy groceries, I’ve tried to limit and almost stop taking flights for personal travel and am a vegetarian most of the time. I’ve been so fortunate to have had several great mentors over my career, and it feels time for me to start passing that on to the next generation.
What was your pathway into the renewable energy industry?
I spent the first few years of my life in what is probably best termed a hippy commune, so as you might expect, sustainability and caring for the earth were instilled in me from an early age. I didn’t necessarily make the connection between this and the direction of my career until I was offered a few graduate positions working in fracking and other areas of oil and gas. I found myself feeling guilt and almost shame about that. Instead, a career in energy storage for renewables seemed like a much more attractive path that aligned with my values.
Since then, I have been very fortunate to work in that sector in Australia and then the United States. Following this, I moved to Europe and spent a number of years working with energy efficiency tracking software, before returning home and moving into solar for apartments.
What inspired you to pursue leadership within the renewables industry?
Pursuing leadership in general seems more to have come from the natural progression of my career, rather than a set of calculated or premeditated steps. Once I started working in renewables, I never really saw a reason to leave this sector, and it has always felt right to be committing eight hours a day, five days a week of my working life to helping solve what will possibly be the most significant challenge to our planet: climate change.
While I feel like I still have everything to learn from those around me, in recent years, the development of both my commercial and technical skills has put me in a position where I can share this wisdom with others.
In a male-dominated industry, what advice or encouragement would you give women who want to work in the clean energy sector?
In short: go for it. We know that we need so much more talent in this industry in order for the clean energy transition to succeed – and women play a key role here. Ask for advice from people who are already in the industry. I’ve always found myself working in later-stage start-ups (approaching scale-up stage) and I cannot fault the support I have received from every one of my, largely, male bosses in encouraging me to grow and providing me with great opportunities. I understand this may not be true of every organisation in the clean energy sector, but my experience shows that positive and impactful opportunities are out there waiting for you.
Why is it important to support female leaders in the clean energy industry and what improvements could be made to increase the number of women in renewables?
It is important to support female leaders in the clean energy industry because we still see too few of them, and it has been shown that at the very least, the visibility of female leaders helps pave the way for the younger generation of women to follow. Furthermore, ensuring adequate support is available for any leader, especially women, is in the interests of anyone committed to addressing climate change.
Increasing the number of women in renewables needs to start in schools – in early secondary school or before. In my later secondary school advanced maths and physics classes, I was one of about 10 per cent of the pupils who were girls. This means at most 10per cent of girls have the pre-requisite subjects to smoothly enter the leading STEM university courses. To expect 50 per cent of the renewables workforce (which largely relies on STEM fields) is simply unrealistic with those starting numbers. We need to work together to encourage girls to aim for what are honestly really exciting and impactful careers in renewables and make those pathways accessible.
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