CEE’s women in leadership offer advice on energy and nonprofit fields
According to MPR News, Minnesota has been a national leader for women in the workplace — in early 2020, the state had a 62% labor force participation rate among all women. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic affected all of those numbers. At the end of 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 overall jobs lost in December — having lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000.
As communities, organizations, and individuals turn their thoughts to recovery from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, CEE is lucky to have a strong group of leaders at its helm. Seven of CEE’s 15 leadership positions are filled by women (46%). Women also make up 57% of our board of directors and 39% of our staff.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, we have featured advice from each of the women on our leadership team. We asked them to respond to the following question: What advice would you have for other women about getting into the energy and/or nonprofit field(s)?
Jenny Edwards, Director of Planning and Engagement — 11 years with CEE
Energy is such an interdisciplinary field that it really does allow you to play to your strengths. I would say make sure you get grounded a bit in the energy system and how it works, bring some pragmatism and critical thinking to the topic, but then the world is really your oyster to build an individual approach. Energy touches everything. Don’t be held back by the way others have done it.
Kristen Funk, Director of Commercial Programs — 25 years with CEE
Energy is a great field in which to pursue a career. There is always something new to learn, multiple disciplines to dive into, and at the end of each day, you can feel really good about what you've done to make your community and the world a better place for everyone. Never hesitate to connect with those who have gone before. Women have made great strides in the energy field and there is a lot of collective experience and wisdom to access as you start your journey.
, Director of Human Resources — 1 year with CEE
I've served in human resources in the nonprofit space for more than 20 years. My advice for others considering entering the nonprofit field has three parts: (1) Ask questions about the mission or purpose of the organization and ensure there is alignment with your personal purpose; (2) Be willing to work outside of your job description and learn about other parts of the organization; and (3) Use your position and influence to move the needle on inclusion and equity — the nonprofit space needs your influence in this way.
, Chief Operating Officer — 2.5 years with CEE
My advice for women getting into the nonprofit sector is as follows: First, get out there and network with folks you know working with nonprofit organizations that interest you. Also, check out the resources of local nonprofit organizations and supporting organizations, including events and opportunities to get involved. Then, jump in and get involved as a volunteer, board member, staff members, or donor! There are so many terrific organizations with so many opportunities all around us.
, Director of Residential Programs — 9 years with CEE
I love the energy industry because there are so many passionate people really focused on helping make our world better. For me, that really has been comforting, especially as I started in this work 15 years ago. At the time, I was part of a very small handful of young women working in residential weatherization programs. Although being in a small minority was sometimes intimidating, it was a way to challenge myself to think critically about my passions and worth in the industry. I was able to find colleagues who fostered my growth and encouraged my leadership. Over my 15 years, the tides have changed dramatically, and I see women represented much more heavily than in 2006. So, my advice is that this is the industry for you if you're interested in helping people, society, and the environment. Find colleagues who are interested in helping you grow and learn. Examine your passions and strengths to find the best fit, because there are a wide range of opportunities in the energy field.
, Manager of Operations — 28 years with CEE
My experience in working for a nonprofit is that you get to wear many different hats. I've done everything from marketing to program management, from workshop planning to overseeing office construction. In the beginning my tools were hot wax and scissors because we didn't have the computers or software to produce marketing materials electronically. In the summer of 1999, Kristen Funk and I again went old school and designed CEE's first website from scratch because no website software existed. Along the way, I was also given the opportunity to create the Minnesota Energy Challenge and run a small pilot program in both the Longfellow neighborhood and the City of Oakdale. I am currently the operations manager, and with the help of my great support staff, I manage both of CEE’s offices and ensure that as a team we provide support to all of our programs and staff. As a plus I still wear my program management hat, overseeing the Metropolitan Airport Commissions, Noise Mitigation Program.
, Chief Financial Officer — 11.5 years with CEE
My advice to women interested in the nonprofit sector is to focus on being well-rounded and take every opportunity to gain experience — volunteer for a nonprofit, research and donate to effective nonprofits that you are passionate about! Nonprofits need many types of skill sets, and oftentimes employees wear several hats. I would also suggest learning background knowledge on exactly how a nonprofit organization works — the requirements for a 501(c)3 organization, where a nonprofit gets its funding, the industry best practices. A great way to gain this knowledge is through an interview with someone in the field. Knowing a little bit about a lot of things will go a long way —and be willing to learn as you go! The more you know, the more effective you will be in finding the right role and achieving the impact you desire.
These women range widely in professional background and job duties, but all of them are part of our mission to discover and deploy the most effective energy solutions that strengthen the economy and improve the environment.
CEE’s 2019 analysis of the energy efficiency workforce reported that women represented less than one-third (23%) of the energy efficiency workforce in 2017 — there is ample room for women like those our leaders seek to inspire to be involved in our communities’ efforts to close that gender gap. We hope these words, along with many others shared on this annual celebration of women, can help inspire the next generation.
Note: Jenny Edward’s quote originally appeared this interview with Clean Energy Resource Teams.
CEE: Minnesota Energy Efficiency Workforce Gap Analysis
Our Staff: Leadership Team