Women in CleanTech

Women in CleanTech


Sparking the next generation of CleanTech leaders

 — by Dawn Putney, President & CEO | Toolbox Creative

CleanTech is innovative by nature, by necessity. The CleanTech innovation I’m most passionate about is the movement to educate, empower and advance girls and women in the industry. At Toolbox, we’re dedicated to initiatives that advance women in technology. It’s beyond a passion project; it runs deep to the core of why we do what we do.

Unlocking potential

Girls are natural problem-solvers — outperforming boys in high school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects worldwide.

So why are women chronically underrepresented in tech companies? Part of the problem is that girls lose interest in math and science as early as grade school. When they experience anxiety, lack confidence and get teased by their peers for being nerds, girls are more likely to opt out. The snowball that starts in grade school continues to roll through higher education, the workforce and all the way up to the boardroom.

“When we encourage girls to pursue science and technology, we double our potential to solve problems.” — Microsoft’s global workplace report

The path to advancing girls and women in technology is built by many hands. We’re all in it together. It takes teachers and administrators, parents and community members, businesses and nonprofits. Engaging STEM-related, project-based learning and real-world internships gives girls hands-on experience and plants the seed of a lifelong love of technology. Then it’s up to tech companies to help that seed flourish. The result? Empowered, successful female innovators who make our world a better place.

MISSion Innovation

MISSion Innovation champions the voices of girls and women

Mentorship matters

You’re less likely to see yourself in the job you want if you don’t see anyone who looks like you in that profession. If the only people you see in an industry are old white dudes, you’re less inclined to see a place for yourself.

I’ve been at this long enough to understand that small changes make a big difference. By exposing girls and young women to successful female role models in STEM fields, we cultivate a sense of belonging for women in technology beyond the administrative and marketing roles they often fill. Mentorship takes this one step further.

Mentors are more than just role models, they’re people who will actively help women advance their careers. Mentors are more than someone to look up to, they’re someone to talk to. How many more women in tech would there be right now if we could go back in time and make up for all the missed mentoring opportunities?

Men have a critical role to play here, too. For example, women make up 35% of the Clean Tech workforce. If Clean Energy leaders stay strictly in their gender lanes when mentoring young professionals, women have fewer opportunities to advance, and gender disparity remains a vicious cycle. Cross-gender mentorships and sponsorships provide a powerful opportunity to break that cycle, break down stereotypes and blow up the status quo.


Talk is cheap, and free advice is worth the price you pay. While I am always happy to speak about women in technology, I’m much more interested in GSD — getting sh*t done. It’s important to me to put my time, talent and money where my mouth is.

I serve on the board for Pretty Brainy, and Toolbox donates work to MISSion Innovation, an all-woman innovation marathon that pairs high school and college students to solve challenges related to sustainable cities and communities. Toolbox built the Colorado C3E brand, and I serve on their board. We recently launched WomenInCleanEnergy.com, the pilot program for a larger Colorado C3E initiative to shine a light on the women doing innovative work in Clean Energy and to broaden the pool from which panelist and conference speakers are chosen.

Colorado C3E Shes In Power | Toolbox CreativeColorado C3E celebrates innovative women in clean energy with the She’s in Power initiative

Busting bias

Implicit biases are real, and we all have them.  I didn’t understand implicit bias early in my career. I’ve become more aware of how I make decisions and work hard to recognize and interrupt those implicit biases in myself and within the Toolbox team. Yes, they may be unconscious biases, but they still occur. By owning and freely discussing those biases, we can work to lessen their influence within our own company. We work hard to make sure that, as part of the process for developing positioning, messaging and brand identity for our clients, we uncover whatever implicit biases might exist. This helps initiate a different kind of conversation and engages a more diverse group of people in that conversation.

busting unconscious biasThe Moxie Exchange breaks down the costs of unconscious bias

Dismantling the manel

We’ve all been there. You’re at a tech conference awaiting a panel discussion on a topic you’re passionate about. But as the experts take the stage, something’s wrong. Wait, one of those old white men on stage is not wearing a tie. Oh, the humanity! Also, there are no women. The all-male panel, or manel, is a perfect example of fishing in one’s own pool. It’s definitely not that there are no women qualified to speak on the topic, and it’s likely not a deliberate, malicious action. It’s that old white dudes roll with old white dudes. That’s the definition of the status quo.

Elevating the conversation

When CleanTech companies make gender inclusiveness part of their brand story, they not only build better brands and stronger companies, they disrupt the status quo and build a better world. That’s true innovation.

Our future depends on how we utilize innovative technology to improve the way we produce food, engineer our world, power the planet and take care of each other. Here at Toolbox, we’ve made it our vocation to use the power of branding to help innovative technology companies build the future we all deserve. Let’s GSD.

About Dawn Putney:

Dawn is Toolbox’s founding president and lead strategist. Dedicated to building a future where women can more easily climb to the top of the business ladder, Dawn knows the future looks brighter and kinder when built by women. Dawn serves on the board of Pretty Brainy, Colorado C3E, the Fort Collins Museum of Art and is a past board member of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. She’s also a founder and fairy godmother of Art Lab Fort Collins.

About Toolbox Creative:

Toolbox Creative is a B2B Brand Engineering firm, helping the 3D Printing,  AgTech and CleanTech industries change the world. We distill complex technologies into powerful identity systems, websites and marketing tactics that align sales and marketing efforts, create lasting impact and build brand love.