May 6, 2019 - Energy & Environment

The solar industry seeks improvement on diversity

Data: U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Data: U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

White guys dominate the solar industry's executive ranks, and women and African Americans are underrepresented in the sector more broadly, a new report shows. There's also a big wage gap between men and women.

Why it matters: The industry is growing as renewable generation increases, and industry officials are launching new efforts to improve the sector's performance on diversity and inclusion.

By the numbers: The report, issued by the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association, offers a suite of data showing where the sector is lagging and performing relatively well.

  • The senior executive ranks are 88% white and 80% men, and men are also more represented in management overall.
  • The gender wage gap is 26%. Women's median hourly wages are $21.62 compared to $29.19 for men.
  • But, "wage distributions across races or ethnicities appear to be more equitable."
  • 23.4% of employees in the survey identified as part of the LGBTQ community, while representation is even higher in the "manager, director, president" ranks.

What's next: The groups released a "best practices" guide to help companies in the sector. And SEIA, working with other trade groups, has launched a multipronged "diversity challenge," which includes this pledge.

What they're saying: SEIA president Abigail Ross Hopper said the sector needs to create cultural change and address "systemic forces that have allowed discrimination to fester."

  • "We need to take account of our own actions and ask ourselves, are we doing enough? It's imperative that we take proactive steps to advance these issues, because it isn't going to happen on its own," she said.

Go deeper: Green energy jobs are better-paid but lack diversity

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