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 Corno (CC): I’ve always loved working with interesting technology and building teams with the passionate people that technology naturally attracts. Hydrogen is right in that space. My interest was also piqued by the fact that hydrogen is going to be part of, or directly affect so many industries: the work that we are doing for the transport and energy sectors at Hyzon is crucial for decarbonisation, but it is only one application of many.
So many enthusiastic people spread across multiple industries leads to a fantastic scene of cooperation and cross-pollination – just what we need to accelerate the energy transition and a really exciting field to be involved in.
What’s something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?
CC: As a structured and target-oriented student, if you had told me as I left school that the following decades would contain so many changes, so many different technologies, countries and companies, I would have thought you mad.
I believe hard work creates opportunity, but I would never have presumed to think that I would have so much luck with simple timing opening the door to my involvement in many interesting projects.
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?
CC: While this question is likely meant to target gender bias solely, I believe bias of all types – gender and otherwise – is one of the major risks to us achieving the energy transition in time to make a difference. We must continually raise our awareness of our own biases in our everyday work and encourage others to do the same.
The hype surrounding the technologies we work with, and our passion hold the risk that we overestimate the positives and become blind to the hurdles we face. For example, an overly positive outlook would assume that in heavy duty trucking, the push for trucks and refuelling infrastructure will follow the same timeline.
We don’t want to make this assumption, hence Hyzon works to secure fuel production and refuelling infrastructure partners aligned with our vehicle deployments.
If we want to make the transition to clean energy economies in time to make a difference, we must ensure we are prepared for each hurdle before we get to it. Diversity of all types in our teams can help us to overcome this optimism bias; there is enough research to show that diverse teams are more successful at ensuring a financial return on investment, so why not at making major systemic changes?
What are the challenges facing women in hydrogen today, especially the next generation?
CC: The diversity of work around hydrogen right now is so impressive – there are so many individuals, business and government organisations working toward a hydrogen future, countless ideas and technologies.
There’s no point in having countless transformative technologies and hundreds of thousands of experts if we can’t focus our efforts towards tangible benefits – in time to make a difference. Ensuring we channel that energy, the technology and its applications to reap the benefits required in the time remaining to us is a challenge in itself, and each new generation entering the workforce has less time available to them.
Given today’s relative paucity of women in STEM fields core to the hydrogen industry, I believe the next generation may be challenged to find role models in leadership roles. This may delay their entry into the field, which we simply cannot afford. Hence I believe that executives – independent of gender – are responsible for building teams that are diverse across all parts and levels of their businesses.
Tell us about one woman who has positively impacted you in your career? What lesson did she teach you?
CC: I’ve been privileged to work with several impressive people over the years, however the leader of a customer organisation for one of my programs stands out. She taught me the absolute importance of authenticity in behaviour and leadership, both internal and external to your own organisation.
Watching her work with the people around her and observing those people over time, I understood that if a leader is authentic then the people around them are encouraged to be so too, leading to honesty and transparency in organisations which enables an efficiency and efficacy in communications which simply isn’t possible when people feel they can’t speak their mind.
Finally, what’s the key message you’d like to get across for International Women’s Day?
CC: Ensuring we have balanced teams (and today that still means more women!) will play a huge role in achieving the benefits of the energy transition. There will always be minorities – they will change over time as our cultures, religions, geographies, politics etc evolve; but by nature will always exist.
We must ensure we don’t repeat the mistake of the past: each voice must be heard, each perspective respected – and that, unlike so many of the other variables in our work, is completely within our control.