Joanna Kay, Smart Energy Council, Australia

With over 15 years of experience in public and private sectors across Australia, China, and India, she is a passionate advocate for sustainable development and clean energy. As the General Manager of Zero Carbon Hydrogen Australia, the peak industry body for the renewable hydrogen industry, she currently leads the organisation to promote the development and adoption of renewable hydrogen and associated products, in Australia and globally.

Joanna Kay’s career journey has been an exploration of diverse landscapes and impactful initiatives. It began in the trenches of management consulting, deeply involved in defence-related projects in Australia, to her diplomatic tenure at the Australian Embassy in China and advisory role at the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in India.

In an exclusive conversation with Collective for Equality, Joanna Kay, shared her experiences of working across geographies, partnering governments, industry and NGOs to advocate for policy and regulatory frameworks that support the global transition to clean energy markets. A passionate believer in getting more young women into the renewable energy sector, she believes in driving change and innovation for a better world, to address the needs of the present generation, and protect the interests of future generations.

From her diplomatic stint at the Australian Embassy in China to her time spent at the Australian High Commission in Delhi, India, Kay’s journey provided her with invaluable insights into the varied workplace cultures and the representation of women across Australia, China, and India.

“In India, women represent 11% in rooftop solar, below the 32% global average. Australia sees progress with 39% women in smart energy, but only 2% as solar installers. These disparities highlight the complexity of gender parity in renewables,” notes Joanna, acknowledging the divergent landscapes within the renewable energy sector.

Championing Gender-Inclusive Opportunities

Joanna’s return to Australia saw her assume the pivotal role of general manager at the Smart Energy Council. Her advocacy for gender-inclusive opportunities extended beyond borders, encompassing regions like India, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Europe, and the Americas.

“In my journey, I’ve witnessed disparities in women’s representation, prompting me to encourage young women to view renewable hydrogen as a promising career path. They will be the leaders of tomorrow,” Joanna emphasizes, emphasizing the pivotal role of women in shaping the future of sustainable energy.

Power of Authentic Leadership

Reflecting on her journey as a woman in a leadership role, Kay underscores the strength of authenticity over conformity. She contends that an individual’s leadership strengths are rooted in qualities such as enthusiasm, empathy, and collaboration, challenging conventional notions of success often associated with traditionally dominant behaviour exhibited by men.

“Your uniqueness is your strength. Your individuality and strengths make you invaluable to any organization,” Kay asserts, championing the power of authenticity in leadership.

Addressing workplace gender equity, Kay emphasizes the importance of eradicating unconscious biases through mindful language usage and organizational reforms that foster inclusivity and growth opportunities.

“Language matters significantly in advocating for gender equity. We must be mindful of unconscious biases that might slip into everyday conversations,” she urges, highlighting the pivotal role of language in shaping equitable workplaces.

Championing a Culture of Equality

Assessing a company’s commitment to workplace gender diversity, Kay stresses the significance of women in influential roles and an inclusive culture that transcends traditional gender norms, fostering an environment where both men and women thrive equally.

“Having women in key decision-making roles is critical for workplace gender diversity. A culture that values equality and supports both men and women is paramount,” Kay asserts, advocating for a culture shift toward inclusivity and equality.

From an organizational standpoint, she believes that one impactful step is refining recruitment practices. Having diverse representation on recruitment panels ensures a fairer selection process, welcoming individuals from all genders into the organization. Educating these panels on unconscious biases is crucial. Understanding and addressing unconscious biases are essential; it’s a significant advantage for anyone who is self-aware and reflective in this aspect.

Role of Male Allies

Within a room dominated by men it’s crucial to understand that the voice of a man tends to be far louder that a woman, says Joanna. Having men as allies who actively monitor and adjust language, even when women aren’t present, holds significant importance.

“Acting as sponsors for women within an organization is also pivotal. Elevating their achievements and success as they would for their male counterparts contributes significantly to fostering gender equality. Acknowledging and celebrating men who actively support and speak up for gender equality initiatives is equally important. Personally, I’ve been fortunate to have supportive male colleagues who’ve advocated for me and addressed issues that might have been exhausting for me to constantly address,” added Joanna.

Joanna Kay’s journey symbolizes the transformative potential of inclusivity and authenticity, laying the groundwork for a future where women stand as empowered leaders at the forefront of the sustainable energy revolution.