Valuable Career Advice From Icelandic Women Energy Innovators

By Joan Michelson

Iceland is a small Arctic country with gorgeous hot springs, lush lands and harsh winters. It’s also an 85% renewable energy economy. There are several strategies Iceland has employed to get there that other countries that are also on the road to clean energy economies, including the United States, could adopt, according to the selected government leaders and innovators affiliated with Green By Iceland.

One of the most important of those strategies, according to Halla Hrund Logadottir, the Director-General of Iceland’s National Energy Authority, is to leverage the talent of women.

“Let’s not forget women are half of the population. You don’t solve any challenge without having women at the table,” Logadottir said. “We need diverse perspectives. And I think in the context of energy and climate, you can see with the development that we’ve had in Iceland, that that dialogue has become much broader. You have more focus on kind of the holistic subject of looking at: What are the broader environmental impacts? What are the long term implications and opportunities? So the dialogues just becomes richer and the output becomes better…It’s having that diversity of perspectives and making sure that, whether it’s in the energy sector or elsewhere that we have full participation.”

Here are six valuable pieces of career advice for women, who want to advance, especially in innovative, male-dominated fields like energy, from interviews on Electric Ladies Podcast with Logadottir, Birta Kristin Helgadottir, Director of Green By Iceland, “a platform for cooperation on climate issues and green solutions,” according to their website, and Berglind (Becca) Rán Ólafsdóttir, CEO of ON Power, a geothermal power company:

· Get involved outside your current region: Logadottir, the first woman in her role, has studies at and now teaches at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and collaborates internationally on these issues, including with the United Nations. She has also lived in Europe and West Africa. Ólafsdóttir earned her MBA in Barcelona, Spain.

· Stretch your knowledge: All of these women stretch beyond their comfort zones to excel. Ólafsdóttir is a molecular biologist who now leads a top energy company; Helgadottir is an engineer who now focuses on public-private partnerships; and Logadottir’s teaching at Harvard, far from her Iceland home, keeps her engaged with the newest technologies and policies.

· Don’t let fear get in your way: Logadottir gave that career advice in our interview to women in mid-career who want to make a difference as well as advance their careers. “If you don’t feel you have the courage, borrow it from a friend or from an expert…So you can actually make sure that fear is not standing between you and the opportunity that the world has for you to make a difference.

· Go with your instincts: “Follow your gut,” Helgadottir said, “you want to advance, that’s one thing, you want to make money, that can be a totally different thing, so you can only advance in my opinion if you have passion.”

· Shape your own ideology: “The traditional path towards a great career and a perfect life, there’s an ideology about that, but you need to shape your own ideology,” Helgadottir explained. “To get a better job with better salary. You have to keep the passion with you, don’t leave it in university….and be the change.”

· Don’t discount your experience and knowledge: “Women, we have a tendency of underestimating ourselves in general, and I think my advice would be that if you’re mid- career and you want to take a step up in the corporate ladder…whether it’s just tab sideways or whatever into another industry, I think it’s important for women not to discount their experience and their knowledge,” Olafsdottir advised, “Try to be a bit bold. If you’re applying for something that is advertised, don’t not submit the application because you don’t check all the boxes, because people are also hired on potential.”

We need all the talent and ideas we can get to drive the clean energy economy, and these insights from women who have had to overcome harsh conditions to succeed, could help women who want to be values-based innovators and leaders.


Photo Source: Business Iceland