Women continue to be severely underrepresented in the solar industry, despite an overwhelming agreement that a diverse workplace makes smart business sense.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), women account for only 28% of the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) jobs in the global solar industry. This disproportionate gender gap largely stems from insufficient training and networking opportunities. The scholarship name “Half the Sun” is aspirational and derived from Pulitzer Prize winners’ Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s renowned book, Half the Sky, where narratives of challenge are turned into opportunities. Since women make up half the world’s population, Half the Sun esteems to boost female and non-binary participation to 50%, or half the solar energy workforce.
Half the Sun is a needs-based scholarship program that aims to address the lack of gender diversity by increasing pathways into the industry and fostering the next generation of female and non-binary solar professionals. It will award financial assistance for professional training in the form of tuition fees for applicants pursuing STEM education. With the global renewable workforce set to grow by almost 30 million people by 2030, Half the Sun can help shape this workforce with a more diverse pool of candidates.
Each year for three years, the program will provide 10 students with a full scholarship for an SEI solar training course lasting six weeks. To best serve the global communities and markets Nextracker serves, the following regions will receive two grants each: Europe, United States, the MEIAT region (Middle East Africa, India, and Turkey); Australia and Asia Pacific; and Latin America. Open to women and non-binary individuals, applicants must have earned a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields or related area of concentration.
From the date the awards will be announced, Half the Sun Scholarship recipients will have access to regional members of the Nextracker Women’s Network to ensure continuity of the career path for networking and one-on-one mentoring. This aligns with the Nextracker Women’s Network mission to unite, promote and inspire diversity in the workplace through social networking, educational opportunities and professional development. Recipients will gain access to Nextracker’s established professional network to bridge solar job placement and offer a platform to discuss shared experiences in the workplace, from the challenges of working motherhood to gender imbalances in the workplace.
“With a 30-year history of providing solar educational courses and training, award recipients can expect to learn photovoltaic basics and lay a strong foundation for a career in photovoltaics,” said Elizabeth Sanderson, SEI Executive Director. “We look forward to supporting Nextracker’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals by offering cutting-edge, world-class solar educational training to the next generation solar workforce. These corporate partnerships, such as the Nextracker Half the Sun Scholarship, help the industry at-large be as diverse, innovative and prosperous as possible.”
“Half the Sun scholarship will help facilitate awardees’ professional development and potential entry into the solar energy workforce,” said Kristan Kirsh, Nextracker’s VP Global Marketing. “SEI has a 30-year track record of training thousands of individuals in the global solar workforce and they have kept pace with online and in-person curriculum best practices. Nextracker is very proud to partner with them and ignite our NX Women’s Network further with this action-oriented program for a more diverse workforce.”