A scholarship designed to foist women leaders into the clean energy C suite has named a winner for 2020.

There are a lot of brilliant women in the clean energy industry – but why shouldn’t there be more? Very simply, that’s the motivation behind the collaboration between the Clean Energy Council and Monash Business School in offering the Your Leadership Voice: Women in Focus grant, now in its second year.

The winner for 2020 is Bridget Ryan, policy and government lead at energy-tech company GreenSync, who will be sent on a six-day program designed to sharpen leadership and communication skills among women in the workplace, an unforgiving environment at the best of times.

Well done, Bridget! Your first assignment is a gruelling Q&A with EcoGeneration

Tell us about your background in renewables.

I’ve been in the energy industry for 17 years but renewables specifically since about 2008. I worked in policy and stakeholder engagement roles in private sector, government and industry associations including a previous iteration of what is now the Australian Energy Council. That particular role gave me a very good understanding of the breadth of the energy industry and the emerging process of market reform. I was able to move from broader energy to cleaner energy through a role as a sustainability policy manager for the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry [VECCI], although I’d had the interest in clean energy for quite a long time before then. The clean energy industry was relatively small when I started working in energy.

Is there a common type of person who works in renewables?

They’re probably passionate about the potential for what they do to make a difference, in addition to being interested in the energy sector. There is a real drive for the clean energy industry to make a tangible, substantial impact on the climate and the planet we live on.

What about the women in it?

That same passion is there in equal measure if not more so.

Are there enough women in the industry?

There could definitely be more. The industry is starting to do a better job of supporting, encouraging and enabling women to step up and take on new opportunities and leadership positions – and to encourage women to stay in the sector if they take a break.

Is clean energy ahead of or behind the pack in taking equality seriously?

I can’t really say, because I haven’t much experience in other sectors. I did notice when I worked for VECCI and engaged with small businesses there were substantially more women in meetings compared to working in energy. On the other hand, the number of women in the energy industry over my career history has changed a lot – but, that said, I can still rock up to a meeting and be one of two women in a room with 15 men, and that’s not uncommon.

What skills do men struggle with but tell themselves they are great at?

There can be instances, whether they mean to or not, where men may have a tendency to oversell their contribution to something. That’s a “mansplaining” tendency that affects not this industry but others, too. But there’s an extent where that can happen where the listener isn’t willing to receive the message, for whatever reason. It can happen when a young person is explaining something to someone who is older than them.

Do you have any stories of being sidelined or overlooked as a woman?

It’s possibly happened to me, where an idea I’ve had has been taken up by someone else who is much better able to sell it than I possibly was.

Do you catch women at events rolling their eyes sometimes at all the blokiness in the room?

Sometimes there are examples of male presenters who aren’t that engaging … and there can be women who aren’t engaging as well. It’s making me generalise, but there are some really engaging female speakers out there, with interesting backgrounds and interesting ways of presenting to a wide audience.

Any mentors you’d like to mention?

I’ve had some great male and female mentors: Natalie Collard who was my manager at the CEC, now at Roads Australia; Andrew Richards, who now heads up the Energy Users’ Association; Rachel Watson, the chair of the Clean Energy Council who was my manager at Pacific Hydro, and Lane Crockett, head of Pacific Hydro Australia at the time; Alicia Webb, who established the Women in Renewables initiative when she was working at the CEC; and Kate Nicolazzo, when I worked for her at the Victorian Employer’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

What are you hoping to get out of the Monash program?

I’m looking forward on being able to answer questions on the spot! And presenting and thinking on my feet and honing my negotiation skills – it’s hard to find the right training program for negotiation. My sense is there are things women can do in negotiation that men might do differently, and men might react differently. Finding your negotiation style is something I am looking forward to diving into.

Do you know any jokes about male electrical engineers?

No, am I supposed to? My stock of engineering jokes is pretty small…