Three things that should not surprise you in 2021 – International Women’s Day

March 8, 2021

Four  women on the Plug In BC team provide crucial skills and expertise to the programs that support EV adoption in British Columbia. Their specialized knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainable transportation is a benefit not only to our office, but to anyone accessing their respective program areas in BC.

To recognize International Women’s Day 2021, we gathered their thoughts on working in the electric vehicle field: a world seemingly synonymous with larger-than-life male personalities. See an introduction to the women of Plug In BC below, followed by their observations, which we have broken down into three things that shouldn’t surprise you in 2021.

The women of Plug In BC

Inger Miller, EV Advisor for Multi Unit Residential Buildings and Workplaces.

As an EV Advisor, Inger is responsible for providing advice, information, and support to a range of audiences on their electric vehicle needs and charging applications.

Prior to joining FBC, Inger worked in the commercial transportation sector as a Policy Analyst at the BC Trucking Association. She was a member of the Sustainable Transportation Action Research Team and has co-authored research articles on consumer perceptions of battery electric vehicles.

Inger holds a Master of Resource and Environmental Management from Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a minor in Business Administration from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Mahdis Aruajo, EV Advisor for Multi Unit Residential Buildings and Workplaces.

Like Inger, Mahdis is an EV Advisor and lends support to a range of audiences on electric vehicle and charging applications, contributes to the design and refinement of the province-wide EV charger rebate programs, and assists her team on parallel Plug In BC initiatives.

Prior to joining FBC, Mahdis worked at the City of Port Coquitlam as a Program Ambassador and Special Events Lead, where she designed and executed sustainable community programs and produced large-scale civic and community events.

Mahdis holds a Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University, Major in Political Science, and a Design Management Certificate from Emily Carr University.

Mary Barrientos, Program Administrator

Mary is the Program Administrator for Sustainable Transportation and supports the Specialty Use Vehicle Incentive Program. She tracks and approves applications for SUVI, responds to inquiries related to SUVI applications, provides quarterly financial analysis and makes regular updates on data received in the program.

Mary started as a volunteer for the Fraser Basin Council (of which Plug In BC is one program area) to provide administrative support in the Finance department. Shortly, she was offered a part-time and eventually a full-time position to join the team as a Finance and Administrative Coordinator. She also processed applications on previous programs related to EV incentives delivered by Plug In BC.

Shannon Gilchrist, Program Coordinator

Shannon provides EV expertise across all of Plug In BC’s electric vehicle programs and events.

Shannon entered the world of electric vehicles as part of the team delivering the Emotive program at Metro Vancouver. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Simon Fraser University where she began volunteering in public outreach and event planning. Her mission is to make complicated subjects easy to understand whether it be teaching kids about rockets at a space museum or pointing out all the different components that make EVs go!

Three things that shouldn’t surprise you

Don’t be surprised when women are EV experts.

Women all over the world are pioneers in science and technology, research and policy that drives EV adoption; however, at events, meetings and presentations, people are clearly surprised to find that a woman is an electric vehicle expert. That is, if they can be convinced that a woman is indeed an expert at all. Female experts receive statements like “wow, you really know your stuff,” with incredulousness that reveals an immense bias: the expectation that a woman cannot be genuinely interested in vehicles or technology, would not have dedicated her training and personal time to researching electric cars, and is at best regurgitating a script that was written by a real, male, expert.

Expressing surprise about a woman’s knowledge is disrespectful. Even worse, we have observed that people who are opposed to EVs will consistently target women with unanswerable questions about obscure or non-existent technology, totally irrelevant to EV ownership in BC, to discredit them as EV experts. This ongoing disrespect accumulates and takes a toll; it is difficult to be singled out and disrespected like that, then continue a meeting as though nothing happened. It should not be a surprise when male staff refer a question to their female colleague because she is a specialist, and yet people are visibly taken aback when this happens. In public engagement and education, we can do more to reinforce the expertise of women in this field.

Here’s a tip: when women are making presentations, they do not need introductions from male colleagues to give them credibility. A woman’s credentials and experience are credible in their own right.

Don’t be surprised when women speak up.

It’s no secret that the world of electric vehicles is built on systems and practices made by men, for other men. So, there should also be no surprise when women speak up about blind spots or red flags across the EV industry, be it design standards for charging station sites, marketing, user experience, or the way we run meetings and events. Feedback from women should be welcomed and encouraged because they are contributing essential insights to make the electric vehicle transition more inclusive, therefore making it happen faster and smoother – kind of like those electric cars we’ve all come to love.

A heads-up for male EV enthusiasts: Women in the EV space are genuinely enthusiastic about cool cars and charging stations, but they will probably decline the invitation to go for a spin or visit the parkade and check out your electrical room. It’s nothing personal, but a precaution that women take when it comes to getting in a vehicle or a dark isolated place with someone they don’t know.

Don’t be surprised when women increase engagement from women.

We have seen more engagement from women at meetings and events where female EV specialists are present and give presentations. This seems like a no-brainer, but having women EV specialists at the table, in the meeting or at a car show opens the door for more women to take part in the electric vehicle conversation. And their participation is important in making the transition to electric vehicles.

Even in the casual setting of car shows, we have seen that young girls more freely express their interest in technology when they have another female to show them around an EV. As we look forward to post-pandemic car shows and conferences, we need to be mindful of having our female EV experts available to answer questions and engage with the public. By available, we mean not just technically at the event yet busy running errands or assigned to registration, but bringing their expert perspectives to the conversation.  

A Community of Practice

Women of EVs is an organization that elevates women who are working in the EV industry by establishing a community built for “her” from the ground up. A space to coalesce women globally towards the urgent need to rapidly shift to electric transportation. Find out more, and join, at https://www.womenofevs.com/