For International Women’s Day 2023, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) asked women working in renewables to reflect on their roles and their ideas on how the industry can ‘Embrace Equity’. Wattwatchers’ Chief Innovation Officer Grace Young was one of them. The impressive full line-up is here, and below is Grace’s Q&A with ARENA.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I’m Chief Innovation Officer at Wattwatchers. I’m responsible for the design and delivery of our hardware, firmware, infrastructure, APIs and apps.
How did you get into the job?
I came to Wattwatchers after launching local energy trading startup Nexergy. Nexergy was founded after a decision to focus my efforts in the energy sector having completed my Masters of Sustainable Practice at RMIT. This was part of a longer-term career trajectory to work with for-purpose organisations
Why renewable energy?
This is the industry where my interests in behaviour-change, technology and sustainability intersect. When I was working at WWF-Australia, I read a report that stated climate change has the potential to wipe out any advances we may achieve in social justice and advancement, creating conflict and adversely affecting those nations and peoples who are least able to affect the changes needed to avoid it. Since then, I have focused my efforts on creating a more sustainable world, with an emphasis on energy, as this is a ‘big emitter’ industry.
How do you think the renewable energy sector is positioned to realise the IWD’s theme for the year: “Embrace equity” What progress would you like to see?
As a small example of how change can happen: at Wattwatchers, we recognised our culture, HR policies, and the like were not aligned with our desire to create an inclusive, diverse company. Aspects of our business lacked consideration of the needs, interests and requirements of women, transgender folks, and other minorities. We actively responded to this by rewriting our policies and addressing ‘blokey bloke’ cultural references within our team, as a start. It remains a journey that we’re on, not a destination. But this is critical to shift the needle towards a more inclusive industry.
What do you wish you were told when you first started out in your career?
If I’d been told, I may not have jumped in! But just knowing that it was going to require a huge degree of patience and perseverance to effect change would have been beneficial. So, the advice would be to “push hard, innovate, but expect headwinds”.