Empowering Female Leaders in Energy

Mentorship Programs Advance Professional Development for Women in Geothermal

Feb. 8, 2022 | Contact media relations

According to national studies, women only account for 22% of the traditional energy sector. That compares to an overall average of 47% nationally in the workforce. One National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) geothermal researcher is determined to elevate the number of women in energy-related professions.

Inspiring, strengthening, and recruiting women in the energy sector is essential for more innovative and inclusive solutions to achieve ambitious clean energy goals.

Female Leaders In Energy (FLIE)

Through a two-year mentorship program, FLIE aims to:

  • Empower, encourage, and guide professional goals to advance energy careers
  • Build confidence and leadership skills in the next generation of female energy leaders in Southeast Asia
  • Strengthen professional networks
  • Improve industry and job function knowledge and skills
  • Provide opportunities for career development, public speaking, and project management.

NREL Project Manager Caity Smith is working to do all that and more to encourage peers and rising stars into energy sector leadership roles. A 15-year geothermal industry veteran, Smith was selected to serve as a mentor through Female Leaders in Energy (FLIE). FLIE is a joint effort between the United States Energy Association (USEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Energy Resources to advance the professional development of early- to mid-career-level women working in energy sectors across Southeast Asia. Through the program, Smith will be paired with a geothermal resource specialist in the Philippines and an energy consultant in Indonesia.

"I am excited that FLIE has officially kicked off and I have the opportunity to mentor two rising stars in the geothermal industry," Smith said. "My goal in mentoring these women is to let them know that they aren't alone and to help them develop the tools and attitude needed to thrive in the industry and advance their career into a leadership role."

Smith's participation in FLIE is part of her overarching goal to help geothermal technologies grow in the United States and internationally. She began her career focused on drilling and project management in the United States before transitioning to work in East Africa. During her previous position with USEA, Smith organized information exchange visits, private sector forums and workshops, and policy/technology cooperation exchanges with the United States Agency for International Development, East African stakeholders, the U.S. geothermal industry, and other international donors.

A woman standing in front of power station equipment.
Caity Smith at the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Station in Iceland.

"I have seen so much growth within the geothermal industry, and we're on the cusp of so much more to come," Smith said. "Promising advances surrounding lower-temperature geothermal resources could lead to new technologies to address topics such as food insecurity—with geothermal greenhouses to increase produce growing seasons—or to assist remote communities in transitioning from costly diesel generators to renewable energy sources for their heat and power needs."

In addition to her involvement in FLIE, managing the Geothermal Collegiate Competition and Geothermal Stakeholder Engagement and Education, Smith also devotes time to the Future Leaders Cohort for Women in Geothermal (WING). Through WING, more than 2,200 members from 74 countries are working together to ignite the passion and courage that will make the geothermal community a global model for equality.

"I am humbled that people look to me as a mentor, as I often learn just as much from them as they learn from me!" Smith added.

For more information on the programs or to get involved, visit usea.org and womeningeothermal.org

Also, visit www.nrel.gov/geothermal/ to learn more about NREL Geothermal research.