Earlier this month I attended the National Energy Efficiency Conference (NEEC) where over 300 efficiency leaders, innovators, energy users and policy makers connected to hear, debate and analyse the latest thinking on maximising productivity through saving energy. Statement on diversity? [ I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only is the energy policy conversation shifting towards renewables, but it is including more diversity as well.
My whole career, I’ve attended seminars that are housed in stuffy rooms with the audience dominated by the established old guard, mainly consisting of men from the SEC days.
Recently, with initiatives such as Young Energy Professionals (YEPs) and ClimateWorks events, I’ve seen a younger, fresher, more renewables focused attitude change in the attendees at industry events. But I’m still used to being one of the 5-10% of women in the room.
I’m used to doing an internal head count at these events.
With NEEC I was welcomed by an open hall with booths highlighting ‘Engineers without Borders’, new software technologies and green focused Government projects. This was definitely a change of pace.
The initial session, chaired by the eloquent Anna Skarbeck, CEO, ClimateWorks Australia, set the scene for discussing the current Energy Revolution.
We heard that the industry is going through a massive period of change due to emergent disruptive technologies. Intelligent efficiency supported by a suite of new technologies and approaches is leading to a future where energy use is optimised automatically. With the advent of microgrids, distributed generation, real-time power monitoring and energy analytics, Australia is becoming smarter with its energy use.
These emergent technologies are already changing how business and buildings are managed, organisations are evaluated and policies are implemented.
It was during the first morning break that I took is session that I took stock of the audience: there were women. A significant representation of women.
With female chairs at 5 out of the 14 sessions, female panellists at 6 sessions and the international keynote presentation given by Dongmei Chen, senior advisor to the China Energy Conservation Association, the whole conference was refreshingly catered for, in terms of diversity.
Day two was centred on Australia’s energy productivity target and how to efficiently apply this to industrial, commercial and residential streams. The afternoon presentation focused on new energy service models and the fact that the consumers will ultimately chose a tariff structure and source of power that works for them.
At each and every streamed session I took a headcount and there was, on average, 30% female representation of attendees. This was phenomenal to see, especially as, when I usually complete this informal headcount,
The usual reason for such low representation is that industry events are not marketed directly to women. In an age where all research and statistics point to the gender gap in the Energy sector, there is a strong lesson in the way the NEEC completed their campaign that should be replicated across other organisational bodies.
The female speaker and chairs, whose biographies represented decades of higher education, hundreds of professional risks and opportunities, and the continuous paradigm of work/life balance, inspired me to do and be more than I am today as a woman working in the energy industry.
The key takeaways from a my perspective were:
· Focused marketing toward females can produce up to 30% attendance, which is a fantastic opportunity for conference organisers
· The industry is undergoing rapid change, providing opportunities for agile, innovative thinkers with broad backgrounds who can bring different perspectives to bear
· Energy efficiency will only increase energy productivity which will grow Australia’s economic output; this should be an agreed initial stepping stone for traditional and more progressive parties with the energy sector to collaborate together