Empowering women-led climate tech startups: Highlights from the LowCarbon.Earth Accelerator session


Author: Vera Pokorny

Illustration: UN Women/Trisha Albay. Photo: Courtesy of Nitu Goel

Nitu Goel’s quote from the ”Empowering Women-Led Climate Tech Startups” networking session on 11 December. Illustration: UN Women/Trisha Albay, Photo: Courtesy of Nitu Goel

“Women need to celebrate each other's successes,” said Nitu Goel, founder of Truesun Energy Solutions, speaking to a group of women climate tech entrepreneurs during a virtual networking session on 11 December 2023.

The networking session on “Empowering Women-Led Climate Tech Startups” was hosted as part of the LowCarbon.Earth Accelerator, a 12-week programme organized by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Women and Massive Earth Foundation.

UNEP's Go4SDGs initiative and the collaborative effort between UNEP and UN Women, the EmPower: Women for Climate-Resilient Societies (EmPower) programme, joined forces to launch the accelerator programme. This initiative aims to catalyze sustainable solutions for climate change, focusing on five distinct sub-themes: renewable energy, agri-processing, microplastics, textiles, and cooling.

The climate tech industry, like many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, has traditionally been male-dominated and women still face barriers entering it. Gender bias and structural discrimination continue to limit women’s access to funding opportunities and women’s leadership.

EmPower is dedicated to undertaking policy and advocacy actions to address systemic barriers as well as building a supportive ecosystem for women in climate tech by creating safe spaces and facilitating capacity building and networking. For this session, UNEP and UN Women brought together women tech entrepreneurs/startups for an informal exchange on navigating the climate tech space as women.

During the session’s introductory elevator pitch round, the women heard which innovative solutions to climate change their peers are working on. The founders pitched diverse solutions: from air filters made from sheep wool to nano coatings for solar panels to increase their efficiency, the entrepreneurs offered a wide range of technologies to tackle pressing climate issues.

Nitu Goel then shared her personal experience in the male-dominated energy sector, emphasizing perseverance as crucial for women in the climate tech space. She also believes that women need to take risks, network and be present. “If women don’t show up, we will be even less visible.”

The discussion delved into challenges faced by entrepreneurs, highlighting concerns around business strategy, financial resources, market access and mentorship.

UNEP and UN Women affirmed their commitment to creating safe spaces for women entrepreneurs working in climate and low-carbon technologies and supporting them with the building of soft skills.

Looking ahead to 2024, EmPower will follow up with more networking sessions, uniting like-minded startups working in climate and low-carbon technology and amplifying the voices of women entrepreneurs. The upcoming investor forum scheduled for April 2024 will provide finalists from the 2023 LowCarbon.Earth Accelerator programme with the opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors. We are looking forward to seeing some of the entrepreneurs from this session there!

About the author

Vera Pokorny is a Gender and Climate Change Outreach Specialist (Consultant) at the UN Environment Programme.

About EmPower

The EmPower: Women for Climate Resilient Societies Programme is a joint initiative between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Women. Since it started in 2018, it has pioneered innovative solutions contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Viet Nam and across Asia and the Pacific. As it entered its second phase in 2023, it expanded to include Indonesia and the Philippines.