At the final event of the Women in Sustainability and Energy (WISE) breakfast symposia series on March 27, 2015, the Building Energy Exchange brought together some of the industry’s leading women to discuss bringing sustainability and resiliency to the broadest set of communities in “The Big Tent” session. The Building Energy Exchange launched the WISE series this year during Women’s History Month in order to highlight female leaders and their work accelerating sustainability programs and energy agendas.
At the final session, Ariella Maron (Principal, Buro Happold Engineering) moderated a panel of three women, Dana Bourland (Vice President, Environment Program, The JPB Foundation), Bomee Jung (Senior Director and NY Deputy Director, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc & Co-Founder of GreenHomeNYC) and Kit Kennedy (Director of Energy and Transportation, NRDC) who spoke to their own experiences as not only women, but as professionals in the sustainability and energy realm. In an industry where too few women are involved, the panelists discussed examples of times when they have had a chance to demonstrate their own leadership as well as experiences learning from other women about how to make huge strides in the energy efficiency realm.
The panel discussion focused on energy efficiency and affordability, which is an important topic that must be addressed not only locally, but on a national level. Ms. Bourland stated that although there will always be a hurdle in front of us to reach solutions to this topic and others, the importance of using our network during these times is invaluable. Sharing what you are doing can help break down those barriers, not only for yourself but for other places around the country who may be struggling with similar concerns.
The panelists also discussed energy on a local level, and what obstacles we face in New York City. For starters, they believe that the conversation must be more granular and sophisticated. We then need to take what is working and look towards long-term stewardship, no matter how un-stimulating and “wonky” those solutions may be. Although Energy Efficiency hasn’t reached the level of popularity that renewable energy has, it has gained a level of appreciation that commands respect for building owners and superintendents who understand and are implementing efficiency measures. The panelists believe that these goals are something women could excel at, because they are good connectors and are able to bring different perspectives to the conversation that could help achieve these goals.
Overall, the panelists were a strong representation of female leaders of the sustainability and energy industry, but they wanted to be clear about one message: this industry, and any industry for that matter, should not be just about gender. Diversity is a wonderful quality, but it does not define talent. Strong professionals are needed who are dedicated to making progress to reach local and national energy goals that have been set. To do this, we all have to make personal efforts, by getting rid of personal bias, by hiring the best people, and by creating strategies to get us to the next step. Everyone must bring solutions to the table, no matter what their race, gender, creed or color.