In celebration of Women’s History Month we are highlighting our female colleagues—working in unique roles across our company—who not only enable us to provide reliable, cost-effective energy to communities across the country but also foster partnerships that these communities can count on for the long term.
Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Clearloop‘s co-founder & CEO Laura Zapata whose carbon solutions are shifting the way corporate investments offset and reduce carbon to achieve emissions reductions at scale in the communities where the greatest economic and environmental benefits can be achieved.
Below are Laura’s answers to our questions about her journey to leading Clearloop, and her valuable insights for anyone interested in working in the energy space.
How did you decide to go into solar?
How I ended up in the solar industry was a pretty winding road. When we started Clearloop, I was coming from a corporate and government communications background and the skill I was bringing to the table was simplifying concepts to get people to understand and buy in. We started with the thesis that if we are going to decarbonize the economy, we needed to activate more parts of the economy to help bring more solar projects online to tackle the massive carbon footprint generated from our country’s power sector. There is a lot of sophisticated science and engineering that takes place in the development and construction of a PV solar project and the quantification of the emissions reductions, but the exciting thing for me as I learned from experts was to make it a really simple concept—Help companies tackle their carbon footprint by building new solar projects, that help clean up the grid by generating carbon-free electricity while investing in communities that can benefit the most from that investment.
What is the biggest challenge for women currently working in the solar industry or women who are trying to get into the solar industry?
I think it’s easy to see the growing renewable energy industry and assume that we should copy and paste the look and feel of the legacy energy industry. The reality is that our transition to a decarbonized economy requires all of the talents and brain power from all of our population and not just the half that was expected to have jobs in the early days when electrification was just starting out. We now have generations of women in the workforce that are ready to take on this challenge alongside their male counterparts and that’s a really exciting opportunity for the growing solar industry. We need to scale the funding, development, construction, and operation of solar projects across all parts of our country, because this country still only makes 3% of all of our electricity from solar power. The good news is that we have plenty of sunshine to harness across the country and plenty of women in positions to take on that challenge.
How has being a woman helped your career in this industry?
I don’t know how to not be a woman, so I don’t know that there is a good marker for me to compare my experience otherwise. What I do know is that it’s been helpful to have a variety of perspectives in a room where decisions are being made. In my experience, diversity of perspectives makes for richer conversations and more creative solutions. We need people from all walks of life to roll up their sleeves to tackle our climate crisis and the solar industry is integral in that work.
Has there been a woman that inspired you in your life and/or work?
There is not just one woman who’s inspired me throughout my life’s work, because I constantly seek inspiration from the women around me. Early on my mom was a great example of hard work and ingenuity for me and our immigrant experience propelled me to “seguir adelante,” which roughly translates to “keep going”. Today, I find myself being inspired a lot more by my colleagues—whether they are more experienced or fresh out of college. The women who push ahead and finagle their way into spaces to bring their new ideas to light, build, and rally others around them. It’s really awesome to see that even in our own interns and younger staffers and definitely pumps me up to keep going.
What progress have you seen on gender equality in this industry?
I have only been in solar for the past 4 years, but before that I worked in traditionally male-dominated spaces in Silicon Valley and politics. What I’ve found to be true in all those experiences is that I’ve had the privilege of having both men and women champion my career and make space for my point of view. We still have a ways to go when it comes to parity and more so equity between men and women in most industries. But I do see a shift happening in the number of women entering this industry—particularly right out of college. As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve kept the value of paying it forward top of mind as I have the opportunity to keep doors open to women who are coming up right behind me. It’s a great feeling to be able to now invest in other young women and help them with a steadier foothold in this industry, just as others have done for me.
What message would you share with your past self today?
It’s ok to not have it all figured out. The world needs more problem solvers. This message resonates with me still today—whether it is career or personal stuff. We’ve got to allow young women to have some grace for themselves and be open to figuring things out along the way.
What is your advice for young women who are potentially interested in a career in solar or in a job with Clearloop?
This is the time to soak it all up, learn as much as possible, and figure out how you will contribute to an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. We’re in a crisis with our climate, which means there is great opportunity to bring new ideas, hard work, and ingenuity to help fix this multi-faceted problem. If we could solve for solar energy adoption at scale or climate change by copying and pasting the solutions and perspectives of legacy industries, we would have already solved these challenges. That is why it is imperative for more talented, bright, and dedicated young women to get curious, tap into the experts, and start diving into this work now. We need you for sunny days ahead! Stay connected to Clearloop and check out our job openings!