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In conversation with the successful Chloe Munro Scholarship 2021 recipients, who will all be undertaking a leadership course delivered by Education Provider, Women & Leadership Australia.

Riley Mc Auliffe photo 1

Riley McAuliffe
Senior Manager, Scaleup Program
EnergyLab

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally

I grew up in Perth, in the great state of Western Australia! Inspired by an Inconvenient Truth and a desire to help fight climate change, I studied environmental engineering at the University of Western Australia. I loved working as an engineer at GHD before moving to Melbourne to study climate change through a Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne. While studying, I worked at Global Voices and led delegations of young professionals to five United Nations summits, including COP21 in Paris and COP22 in Marrakech.

I then joined EnergyLab, Australia and New Zealand's largest climate tech startup accelerator and innovation network dedicated to reaching net zero emissions. At EnergyLab, I had the privilege to support hundreds of courageous and pioneering cleantech founders and help build partnerships between energy companies and late-stage startups.

I recently joined JET Charge, Australia's largest EV charging infrastructure company. JET Charge inspired me because of their fantastic team led by Tim Washington and the decarbonisation impact of low emissions transport. My late grandfather Clive Shepherd was a passionate roads engineer who helped seal the roads in the Kimberleys. I'm excited to now play my part in building our transport future.

I like to start my day with yoga and meditation before ending it by yelling at the telly while watching Survivor. I also love eating delicious food, caring for houseplants, camping in Australia's incredible outback, going to the movies and dancing!

What was your pathway into the renewable energy industry?

While studying climate change at the University of Melbourne, I received frequent advice to work in energy rather than climate because of the renewable industry's speed and scale of change. I'm so happy I followed this great advice. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work in an optimistic, solutions-focused sector and to be working at the forefront of the global energy transition.

Specifically, after working as an engineer and graduating with my master's degree, a contact at Environment Victoria, where I was volunteering, recommended I apply for a job at EnergyLab. EnergyLab was a fantastic entry into the clean energy sector. Between working with a vast range of founders and managing our mentor network of over 300 industry leaders, technical experts, founders and investors, I had the rare opportunity to build knowledge and relationships across the industry.

What leadership impact do you hope to make with the scholarship?

Sally Ferrier, a friend of Chloe Munroe, said that Chloe would assert that the 'thought doesn't equal the deed'. After spending a lifetime thinking about leadership, I am grateful to be receiving this extraordinary scholarship at a pivotal moment in my career. The program will enable me to develop my managerial skills and step into leadership with conviction.

My long-term goal is to be in an executive role in a renewable startup, shaping the technologies of our future energy system. The scholarship will help me gain the skills and network to become an impactful, passionate, enthusiastic and highly competent leader and human being like Chloe.

I love collaborating and mentoring, so I intend to support the sector and leaders who come after me with great passion.

In a male-dominated industry, what advice or encouragement would you give women who want to work in the clean energy sector?

I've spent my whole career in male-dominated industries, and my advice for women who want to join the sector is to do it! The clean energy sector is incredible. I see many opportunities for women, and I have witnessed a near-universal passion for bringing more women into the industry.

It may not be all smooth sailing, and small or large challenges may arise. For example, in an office I worked in, the women's bathrooms required key card access while the men's bathrooms were open. This increasingly irritated me as time went on, so I emailed building management, who fixed it. If you communicate honestly with the company, these issues can be overcome and hopefully reduced as the industry becomes equal.

As a practical first step, I'd advise women to believe in their potential contribution to the sector. A great way to start scoping opportunities is to reach out to people on LinkedIn at companies or in roles you're interested in for coffees or calls.

It helps to surround yourself with mentors and colleagues you respect. One great way to find a company that you will respect and that will respect you is to look for women in leadership positions. Seeing the amazing Claire Painter at JET Charge gave me the confidence that it would be a great organisation where I would want to work.

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?

The clean energy industry represents the future. I believe it is a matter of great integrity that the sector reflects an aspirational workforce. Diversity will ensure we reflect the communities we work with and we can create the solutions we need.

Much like the clean energy industry with its many technologies, increasing the number of women in renewables will require many solutions.

Solutions that are important to me include normalising and passionately encouraging girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). I used to look after some kids after school, and they had access to an excellent robotics class. No girls participated. 'Not liking maths' and perceiving STEM as subjects for boys is an easy way for girls to rule out attending robotics class and eventually a career in STEM. Generous women in STEM investments from the clean energy sector, government, schools and universities seem like one crucial step to rectify this.

Mentoring and internship opportunities throughout high school and university for STEM and equally important non-technical roles in renewables are also meaningful. Once in leadership positions, women should be allowed to redefine leadership and not be expected to be cookie cutters of past leaders.

Policy changes would also help, from education investment to affordable childcare and generous paid parental leave for mothers and fathers. I'm also a fan of quotas as a means of creating opportunities for women and other diverse groups traditionally excluded from leadership roles.

Further information

If you would like more information on our scholarship opportunities, please click here or email [email protected]

Scholarship Partners

This Scholarship is made possible by the generosity of our partners.

Website chloe munro partners