Claire, thanks for giving H2 View your time. We’re celebrating the women working in hydrogen this International Women’s Day. So, what first sparked your interest in hydrogen and working in this industry?
Claire Behar (CB): Thanks for including me in this series! My interest in hydrogen goes back to my passion for being outside in nature. I’ve always enjoyed the greater outdoors – camping, hiking, biking. Protecting the environment is also part of that passion. At university, I studied geology engineering which turned into a job in the energy sector – analysing global natural gas for energy commodities trading.
I quickly realised how critically important energy reliability is for everyone and how a clean energy transition was imminent in a world needing better protection. Moving from natural gas to hydrogen was a natural career progression within the energy sector, a next step towards helping facilitate the clean energy transition as the hydrogen industry scales up, and a way to help make our planet a clean, more liveable place for all – something I really care about!
I believe renewable hydrogen really is the final puzzle piece in the effort to provide long-duration clean energy storage and resiliency at scale as well as a critical way to reduce overall energy sector emissions.
What’s something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?
CB: I’ve been so impressed with the passion of those working in the hydrogen space. Whether it’s with start-ups like Hy Stor Energy or those in the manufacturing realm, there’s a real dedication to this craft. I’m very motivated by the smart, diverse minds working toward the shared goal of decarbonising the energy sector.
It’s clear that the time is now, and the industry is coming together with a sense of speed and urgency to combat climate change. I’ve also been very surprised by the level of innovation and the amount of female leadership in the sector. Coming from a traditional energy background, I did not see as much of that, and I’m inspired by the women who are driving the industry forward.
Renewable hydrogen is a new and exciting industry where I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for women and diversity to be at the forefront as the industry grows and develops.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. What does this mean to you? And what advice would you give to women experiencing bias and unconscious bias? What advice would you give to women experiencing bias and unconscious bias?
We’re seeing a couple different things play out across the industry right now. First off, we’re finally seeing more women going into engineering, energy, and leadership levels at companies.
This is a huge change for what’s been a largely male-dominated field. For women who experience bias and unconscious bias on a daily basis, my advice is to hold your ground, use your smarts and your voice to be sure you “have a seat at the table.” Don’t be shy since you deserve to be a part of every conversation. Most of my personal encounters have been what I consider unconscious bias, and I find that open communication is the best solution to overcome barriers
At Hy Stor, we are partnering with local communities to tackle racial inequity and bias while also fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are a purpose driven team committed to creating resilient communities with access to clean, affordable, reliable energy.
The communities that are most impacted from climate change need to be at the forefront. Communities shouldn’t need to make a choice between reliable energy and clean air. Training and hiring within underserved communities allows us to tap into a willing diverse workforce that might not otherwise have the education, access, or specific skills necessary.
We will both help build a local economy while at the same time, provide renewable energy – cleaner air, reliable energy for a more resilient future for all.
What are the challenges facing women in hydrogen today, especially the next generation?
CB: Without equal representation at the leadership or engineer level, it’s hard for young women to see themselves advancing in the energy field. It is critical that we continue to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion so that young women entering the work force today have role models to look up to and engage with at work. The good news is that we are starting to see more of this – for instance, Hy Stor Energy is a female-run company with a completely female leadership team.
It truly is a renaissance, and that effect is snowballing with more women rising through the ranks and giving young women a chance to see that it could someday be them in those shoes – helping to lead the clean energy transition through hydrogen.
Tell us about one woman who has positively impacted you in your career? What lesson did she teach you?
The woman who has positively impacted my career the most is Laura Luce, our CEO and Founder. As a senior woman working for decades in the energy sector for large corporations, she has used her boundless energy and her vast knowledge to always be the leader. She has taught me to “do my homework,” know as much as you can before entering a meeting, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and make decisions decisively. It is her vision that helped create Hy Stor Energy which I find truly inspiring.
Finally, what’s the key message you’d like to get across for International Women’s Day?
CB: If the world is going to create a net zero grid and meet the renewable energy goals set out in the Paris Agreement, there needs to be female leadership and participation in the clean energy industry.
Whether it’s in academia, research, industry, communications – there are a growing number of job opportunities available and waiting to be filled by women who want to make a difference. My advice is always be curious, ask questions, don’t be afraid to think out of the box and bring a different perspective. Diversity in thought and background is the recipe for innovation!