The Clean Energy Council (CEC), Australia’s clean energy peak body,  recently awarded 2016’s second Developing Women Directors award to Nicola Wilkins, an engineer with Downer. The award is part of much needed push toward gender parity on company boards which international research  shows enables a range of better business outcomes and significantly reduces the pay gap between men and women.

Currently only 23.4 percent of the board positions of Australian companies are taken up by women. In the mining industry this gets as low as 15 percent, whereas in the clean energy industry this reaches as high as 30 percent. With help from awards like this one, the clean energy industry could be the first industry in Australia to reach gender parity.

The award itself empowers women with the skills they need to take on leadership roles through the Australian Institute of Company Directors Foundations of Directorship course which teaches the fundamentals needed for board participation. It also provides a six month mentoring program to guide the award winner through her leadership journey.

Nicola Wilkins has spent the past 15 years building a renewable energy career that has spanned consulting, international development, an MBA in renewable energy, PV system design, and start-up experience.

“Research consistently shows that diversity improves company boards’ performances.” She told us, “The Clean Energy Council has recognised this and created the award in order to encourage more women to pursue boardroom roles in the clean energy sector. I am delighted to be named as the second recipient of this scholarship and look forward to making the most of this unique opportunity.”

AllGrid Energy’s marketing and alliance manager, Deborah Oberon, was the inaugural winner of the award earlier this year.

“The clean energy industry is an industry built upon innovation.” Said Oberon, “Research shows that businesses do better on every single business metric when they achieve gender parity on their boards. So the faster we get more women into upper management positions the more successful the industry will be in achieving the goal of a country run on clean and renewable energy”

“I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and experience through the CEC’s award. CEC Board member and New Business General Manager for Pacific Hydro, Rachel Watson was my mentor for six months and this was a very important level of support for me this year. Both the award and the mentoring were quite a significant turning point in my career and I have certainly gained a lot of confidence.”

Oberon recently left her position at AllGrid Energy to begin her own communications company. Regennovate is geared specifically towards ethical and sustainability businesses.

Oberon had this to say, “Sometimes the fastest way to get on a board is to create your own! This is truly the age of disruption and entrepreneurship. If the old systems aren’t changing fast enough then get out and build the new. My co-director, Maddi Kimber, is a new graduate and only 23 years old. Its really exciting to have created an opportunity for someone so young to step up and choose a leadership role and for me to be able to mentor her in it. Its made me realise that women don’t do enough mentoring for each other so we are looking at developing some collaborative communication courses designed specifically for women who want to offer mentoring to other women. I’m so excited by the new generation of women leaders coming up, like Maddi, like Jacqui Fetchet and Millie Telford who participated in AGE’s recent “Illuminating the EnvironMENTAL” event. I think that in my age bracket we can get a bit complacent and conservative. The dynamism and passion of the Millennials is a force to be reckoned with!”

Jacqui Fetchet, Rachel Watson and Deborah Oberon
Jacqui Fetchet, Rachel Watson and Deborah Oberon at Illuminating the EnvironMENTAL 2016

Oberon said that Ray Pratt and Dean Stehling, AGE’s CEO and Executive Director respectively, had been been incredibly supportive of her move into her own company and AGE became Regennovate’s first client. “I’ve had so much support to get my business up and running from both Ray and Dean. In fact I’ve been working in Dean’s businesses for over 5 years now and in terms of my business skills he has been one of my greatest teachers. I am very proud to have been a part of such a great company that is so committed to the social impact of it’s work. AllGrid has had a great year in 2016 and 2017 is shaping up to be even better! And congratulations to Nicola. I had the privilege of being on the selection committee and she is a very worthy recipient.”

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