To mark International Women’s Day 2019, we caught up with Emily Wheeler, our US-based Executive VP of Operations to find out more about her journey into energy.
Here’s what she had to say about life in the sector…
Give us a run-down of your career to date
I graduated from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Upon graduation, I started working for a Natural Gas company before moving to GE where I was involved with advanced materials, like the ‘goop’ that goes on the back of post-it notes.
From there, I moved to the US Department of Energy, where I ran the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell research program before moving onto the DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO).
After this I went on to be the Director of Clean Tech Initiatives for NYU, where I was involved in a variety of different programs including The Urban Future Lab, NYC ACRE, PowerBridgeNY and Clean Start.
I joined Smarter Grid Solutions as Executive VP of Operations in 2015, two years after the firm launched in North America. Here, I’m responsible for the delivery of clean energy projects worldwide. It has been hugely rewarding to be part of SGS’ journey in the US and to work with such a smart, passionate team.
What made you want to enter the industry?
I’ve always been an environmentalist! As a child I was always the one telling people how to brush their teeth without wasting water or how to conserve energy.
While at high school, I started a recycling program and organized multiple river clean-ups during those years. My environmental enthusiasm grew from there and clean energy was an obvious choice for me – it was where I wanted to make a positive impact.
Let’s talk gender diversity…
Having worked in the sector for my whole career, I can say with certainty that there is significant gender gap. It’s something I often notice when attending industry conferences or events.
But more can be done. We must continue to promote more women in the industry, encourage diversity training, and recognise the benefits that a diverse team has to offer. A 2015 McKinsey report on 336 public companies found that those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above the industry average.
Any advice to other women considering a career in clean energy?
Do it! It is an extremely rewarding career and you are needed in order to get the industry to where it should be.
My advice would be to go for it but to always ask for help when you need it. Mentorship can be a great way to build your career and navigate the industry.