GWNET brings you the 6th instalment of the “Meet the Women in the Energy Transition” series which celebrates the work and achievements of the women who are part of GWNET’s 3/2020 Mentoring Programme. This mentoring programme is made up of 26 mentee-mentor tandems, with mentees from over 20 countries. Meet GWNET mentor, Leen Govaerts, a Unit Manager working with VITO in Belgium. Leen holds a degree in business engineering and an Executive MBA. At present, she is leading the research unit Smart Energy and Built Environment of VITO Energyville – a European Research and Technology organization – dealing with sustainable energy and urban sustainability. Key research areas are long term energy strategies and policy, energy district design and sustainable building concepts.  

1) Tell us a little about yourself. What do you love most about what you do?

I’m privileged to work in an international context and meet many stakeholders (industry, policymakers, and others) and contribute to the major challenge of decarbonizing our economy. Moreover, I enjoy the daily interactions with my colleagues, all of them being strong experts in the field of energy policy and innovation.


2) What were your goals when you started working in sustainable energy? Have these evolved?

I started working in sustainable energy research because I could apply my degree in business engineering, combining my technical and economical background. Working in an expert environment with less in-depth technical expertise was a challenge in the beginning, but evolved when experiencing that also a broad helicopter view – societal and economical aspects of the energy transition and management & communication skills, were valued in my work.  


3) How have you adapted to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and what advice would you give someone going through similar challenges?

Never waste a good crisis ? I got the opportunity to lead a corona taskforce in our organization, focusing on business continuity and drafting an economic recovery plan with leverage for the transition to a low carbon society.


4) What are the opportunities for sustainable energy growth in your country?

Belgium is a densely populated area so there are quite some challenges and opportunities for sustainable energy growth in our country.


5) What challenges have you faced in the sector? Can you tell us how you overcame (or are overcoming) this challenge(s)?

I did not experience explicit challenges due to the gender imbalance in the energy sector, although implicitly I felt the need to prove my competences strongly. Enrolling in external training with peers eg. helped to build more self-confidence.


6) Why did you join the GWNET Mentorship Programme? What do you hope to achieve?

I hope to grow my international network of (wo)men working in the energy sector and hope to e-meet and engage more mentors/mentees in interesting discussions. I hope to learn from people with different backgrounds: other countries, working in the private sector. I hope I can contribute my experience to the personal and career development of the mentee(s).


7) What advice would you give to women hoping to join the sustainable energy sector?

There is no reason to doubt your capabilities. Take the initiative to lead ‘special projects’ if they pass by, they give the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and competences.


Read more about GWNET’s mentoring programmes here

Become a mentor – what’s in it for you?

GWNET is looking for senior professionals who are eager to make a difference and have a positive impact on a younger woman’s career in the energy sector. With the ever-changing dynamics of the business fields, digitalisation, knowledge and knowledge sharing has become more important than ever. As a mentor, you get the opportunity to give something valuable back to more junior professionals and to expand your own knowledge through your mentees’ perspective. Mentoring will contribute to personal and professional development for both you and your mentee, as well as, shaping the direction of future generations within your field of expertise.

If you are interested in volunteering as a mentor in one of GWNET’s mentoring programmes (which involves approx. 1 – 1.5 hours of engagement per month plus optional participation in knowledge-transfer webinars), kindly fill-in the Mentor Datasheet.


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