Jobs Census 2022
With expanded jobs data on energy storage
and other clean energy industries
The Solar Jobs Census tracks U.S. solar workforce demographics including gender, ethnicity, race, veteran status, and other characteristics. In recent years, these data have told a consistent story. While the solar industry is growing more diverse, there is still a need for concerted action to ensure there are equitable opportunities for everyone to work in solar. In particular, women and Black people continue to be underrepresented in the solar workforce. While these challenges are shared with similar industries, solar firms represent the future of America. They have an opportunity and a responsibility to lead.
Some of the key findings on workforce demographics are described in the paragraphs and charts below. While this section focuses on solar, demographic data is similar across other clean energy industries.
How the Solar Workforce Compares
Women made up 31% of the solar workforce in 2022, an increase from 29% in 2021. Looking back five years, the proportion of women in solar has increased from 27% in 2017. This suggests that strategies to improve recruitment and expand diversity inclusion efforts are having an impact, though the percentage of women at solar firms is still well below the proportion in the national workforce.
Black solar workers made up 9% of the workforce in 2022, while the percentage in the overall workforce is considerably higher, at 13%. Asian representation was at 9%, compared to 7% across the entire economy. The proportion of both Black people and Asian people in the solar workforce has grown within the past five years.
Hispanic or Latino employees made up 22% of the solar workforce in 2022, compared to 19% in the overall U.S. workforce. A likely factor behind this is that the solar industry is especially strong in regions with a high Latino population, such as California.1
Eight percent of solar employees are veterans, compared to 5% of the overall U.S. workforce. The solar industry has long recognized military veterans as promising job candidates for both entry-level and leadership positions, and has cultivated talent through initiatives like IREC’s Solar Ready Veterans initiative. Employees with a disability made up 2.5% of the solar workforce, below the 4% national average. The proportion of solar employees who were formerly incarcerated is 1.4%, compared to 2% of the national workforce.
The solar industry clearly has more work to do, but it is not alone in facing these challenges. This can be seen when solar workforce demographics are broken down by sector and then compared to similar industries. In the solar installation and project development sector, 30% of the workforce is female. In the U.S. construction sector, the proportion is 11%. The solar manufacturing sector has about the same percentage of women employees as the overall U.S. manufacturing sector. Black workers make up 11% of overall U.S. manufacturing compared to 9% in the solar manufacturing sector.
With respect to age, the solar industry is considerably younger on average than the overall workforce. Only 13% of the workforce is 55 and over, compared to 24% nationwide.
10.5% of the solar workforce is represented by a union, more than in the overall private sector workforce. This data is discussed in more detail in the Workforce Development section.
Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
Addressing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) takes a focused and long-term commitment that begins at the leadership level. It includes expanding recruitment to target a wider segment of the population, while creating an equitable work environment where all employees feel free to be fully themselves. Companies are likely to see progress when they prioritize diversity and make it a core part of the workplace culture.
In recent years, many solar companies and associations have taken ambitious steps to prioritize DEIJ and achieve improved outcomes. However, the Census survey found that the majority of solar firms are not pursuing diversity and inclusion strategies. Most firms have not adopted strategies to increase female, ethnic or racial minority, or LGBTQ+ hires, and only about one-third offer a diversity and inclusion training program.
Among those firms that are pursuing diversity and inclusion strategies, one common approach was to conduct targeted workforce recruiting, including at educational institutions. This was the top strategy mentioned to increase both female and ethnic or racial minority representation. Other frequently cited strategies to increase representation in the above groups included creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee or policy, and working with outside organizations.
For firms with a strategy to increase LGBTQ+ hires, the top strategy was to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee or policy. Other common strategies to increase LGBTQ+ representation include becoming an equal opportunity employer, working with outside organizations, and targeted recruiting.
Making progress on these issues can be a challenge, especially for small firms with limited time and resources. In the solar industry, organizations like the Solar Energy Industries Association and Renewables Forward can offer ways to help. The IREC-led National Clean Energy Workforce Alliance convenes forums on strategies to advance a skilled and diverse workforce, and all clean energy employers are welcome to participate.
- The 2022 Solar Jobs Census includes Puerto Rico in the overall demographics numbers, while previous years did not. In most cases, this addition did not significantly change the national demographic data. An exception is Black or African American employees, who made up 8.7% of the national solar workforce compared to 8.1% representation in 2021. One reason for this was their high representation in Puerto Rico, where Black or African American employees made up 44% of the workforce. Many Puerto Rico employees were identified as both Black and African American or Hispanic or Latino, or one or the other.