President Sheppard, in his convocation remarks in September 2014, noted that Western Washington University is excited about the Institute for Energy Studies and its initiative to train students for careers in the growing and rapidly changing field of energy. Paying attention to the gendered dimensions of this field is essential if we are to succeed in this mission.
Women are underrepresented and underpaid in many professions. Energy is one of these areas. Women's disadvantaged position in STEM fields such as engineering and science has been well-researched and there is a support network for women in science on the WWU campus. However, women are also face an uphill struggle in non-science related jobs in the energy sector. With the focus of the Institute for Energy Studies minor in Energy Policy and BA in Energy Management and Policy, we recognized a need to support women in all aspects of energy studies.
The Institute for Energy Studies strives to ensure that both men and women have equal opportunities to contribute to this sector of the economy by preparing students with knowledge, skills, and resources they need to succeed. As part of that effort, the Energy Trans Lab is conducting applied research into assessing the demand, need, and value-added of a women mentoring program.
WEIMN meeting with Dr. Vandana Shiva
Our initiative brings together women students in Energy Studies with women professionals in the energy industries in and around Bellingham. The first stage of the project is to understand the demand and interest among students and professionals for a mentoring program. Lindsay Parpart was hired as the first coordinator of the network in January 2015.
WEIMN - Women in Energy Network - holds breakfast meetings the first Thursday of every month. A Facebook page is maintained here.
This work is motivated in part by the report entitled: Why women leave engineering. In that report one interviewee stated: “The lack of women in general, and the lack of women mentors makes it [engineering] a lonely field for women to want to stay in.” Our goal is to make sure our WWU graduates never feel this way during their careers in energy.