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In conversation with Women in Renewables Scholarship winner Allison Hawke

As the Women in Renewables initiative continues to grow strongly, the demand for scholarship opportunities grows with it. In 2018, the number of inspiring and intelligent women that applied for the Australian Institute of Company Directors: Foundations of Directorship (AICD) scholarship and the inaugural Monash Business School, Your Leadership Voice: Women in Focus scholarship hit record numbers.

Allison Hawke Aicd 2019

2019 Australian Institute of Company Directors Scholarship Recipient: Allison Hawke

Allison is COO of Australian solar farm developer, owner and operator ESCO Pacific and volunteers for MESOLshare, a Bangladesh microgrid company.

As part of the start-up team at ESCO Pacific, Allison led the development of a project pipeline including 500MW to pass the critical financial close milestone. In this time she has gained experience in development strategy, network connection, financial close and construction processes, community and media engagement, court appeals and stakeholder lobbying.

Allison is currently Chair of the Clean Energy Council’s Solar Directorate and is the recipient of the 2019 Women in Renewables Australian Course of Directors Scholarship.

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally

I am curious by nature and am a people person. In this sense, I enjoy the variety offered by renewable energy, when compared to other forms of infrastructure. I thrive off teamwork both within my office, among professionals in the industry and with our project landowners and communities. While I’m invested in the success of ESCO Pacific, I see value in the industry working together and sharing information to address common issues. I believe that the people working in our industry have a deep sense of purpose and believe in what they do. I feel as though this sense of camaraderie has helped us all to endure the ups and downs of the last few years. Outside of work, I love to get away from Melbourne for outdoorsy activities like mountain biking and kite surfing, as well as spending time with family and friends.

What attracted you to the renewable energy industry and what motivated you to apply for the WiR scholarship?

I have felt passionate about the environment ever since a teacher taught me about recycling. To me, renewable energy seems to be the meeting point for balanced and progressive action to a very real environmental challenge. My first renewables role at Acciona allowed me to use and broaden my planning skills in a project management role. Once I had a taste, I have only wanted to learn more about land tenure, stakeholder management, project financing, design, construction and so on.

I have witnessed increased acknowledgement of the gender inequality issue followed by evidence of change, including the number of women in leadership roles. Witnessing this changed my attitude from being passive to believing I could have more influence and become more involved if I wanted to. Unconscious bias can be evasive and there is a long way to go to gender parity, but I would like to be a part of this movement.

How will the WiR scholarship help enhance your career and allow you to achieve your personal and professional goals?

Simply going through the application process forced me to reflect on where I was going and what I valued. The year between my first application and my second successful application allowed me to identify areas I needed to work on to be a stronger contender. I didn’t view another miss as a bad thing as I knew the process itself represents an opportunity to develop my suitability for board roles which I would like to work towards regardless.

Having said that, the award packages the opportunities of a mentor, important academic foundation and elevated profile together in a way that really speeds up the path I wish to take. It overcomes deliberation over readiness and forces me to get to the business end of the next step in my career.

What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?

I really believe that in any industry it is important to have a diverse range of role models in senior positions. We have been taking some big steps in the right direction as an industry and I feel lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It is the right place, in that renewables are here to stay and there are many growth opportunities, and the right time in that many women around me are showing the industry what they are made of. I would love to encourage women to seek out and take opportunities and the more examples of this we have available, the more I believe it will occur.