Professional and career paths for young women in the climate, energy, research and innovation sectors
On 16 April 2021, the Girls Pioneer Event took place in Austria as part of the C3E initiative, organised on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) and in cooperation with the Austrian Energy Agency (AEA) and Raffeiner Reputation. A total of about 110 participants took part. This event was deliberately aimed at female senior high school students from all over Austria, because women are still underrepresented in the energy sector in Austria – only 18 % of employees are female (international average 25 %); with increasing responsibility this share drops to 7 %. This event was designed to make young women, the future professionals of tomorrow, pioneers in the energy sector and to demonstrate in an interactive way what a career in energy has in store for them and what paths are open to them. The participating experts from different areas of the energy sector contributed to being a role model for the schoolgirls and encouraging them to follow their path into the energy industry.
Karina Knaus from the Austrian Energy Agency moderated the event together with Silva Leschner (Raffeiner Reputation). After welcoming the participants, words of greeting were also addressed to the participants of the Girls Pioneer Event by Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler in the form of a video message. The video is available under this link.
Afterwards, three experts from the energy sector took the floor:
- Barbara Schmidt, Secretary General of Oesterreichs Energie.
- Claudia Zettel, Editor-in-Chief of futurezone.at
- Jasmin Hausherr, Energy Manager at PowerSolution
In a panel discussion, they told the participants what they do for a living, how they came to their profession, what motivated them to choose their career and why the students should pursue a path in the energy sector. They emphasised that it is important not to put too much pressure on oneself. Especially when you are still at school, it is natural not to know what you want to do later on. The experts explained that these are insights that often only develop later. They also underlined that the energy sector is a very broad field with a variety of job profiles. Their own backgrounds clearly showed that it is possible to gain a foothold in the energy sector as a woman even with the most diverse professional backgrounds: Dr. Schmidt as an expert in the field of interest politics and negotiating framework conditions, Ms. Zettel as a communication expert and journalist, and Ms. Hausherr as an energy manager in (industrial) customer consulting. They motivated the students not to be intimidated even in male-dominated sectors – it is always important to have a self-confident appearance, a strong voice and not to put up with everything.
Elisabeth Steigberger from the FFG then gave the participants a brief insight into the FFG’s TALENTE internships for pupils, presenting their options and the application process.
In the next part of the event, small group discussions were held between the participating schoolgirls and young female experts from the energy, research and innovation sector. A total of seven small groups were each accompanied by a student from energy-related studies or a young professional in the role of a “role model”.
They told the students about their own experiences and answered various questions from them. This gave the participants the opportunity to get to know young women from the energy sector, and thus potential role models, and to talk to them among their peers and learn from their experiences. The small age difference also encouraged the active participation of the students in the small groups. The topics of the discussions in the groups were the personal decision-making process for choosing this kind of course of study and career, the opportunities in the energy sector as well as their own drive to develop in this direction. It also turned out that many female students were happy to gain a more detailed insight into the work in the energy, research and innovation sector through this event and to learn that it is not only a “technician sector”, as many of them originally assumed, and that many different possibilities are open to them. Many participants also stressed the importance of using role models. It was a great added value for them to be able to get in direct contact with representatives of the energy sector.
For more questions regarding the Austrian activities within the C3E Initiative, please contact:
- Sabine Mitter, email@example.com
- Kerstin Schilcher, firstname.lastname@example.org