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May 30, 2024

Celebrating Women in Weatherization: Jennifer Lewis

"Do not be intimidated! There is so much support in any aspect of this industry one may be interested in. Now more than ever, there are so many professional opportunities for women in this industry."

Jennifer Lewis – Sr. Weatherization Programs and Evaluation Manager, Washington

How did you first get interested and involved in weatherization?

I was a 2009 ARRA hire as an Energy Auditor for a large CAP agency in Chicago, CEDA. I had never heard of weatherization, but I saw “helping families” and “energy efficiency” and I was sold! Soon after I was BPI certified as a QCI Inspector and then Supervisor in Contractor Relations and QCI Inspectors. In 2017 I took a position at a smaller CAP agency managing the Weatherization and Home Rehabilitation Programs.

Tell us about your current and past roles in weatherization.

Currently I am the Sr. Weatherization Program Manager for the Department of Commerce in WA State. We are a robust team of twenty in the Weatherization Unit within the Energy Division there. My years as a weatherization Program Manager at a CAP agency helped prepare me for my current position in having a much deeper understanding of the challenges agencies face in implementing these programs in communities. Although now in WA state, there are some differences, but many of the challenges and certainly the rewards are the same.

What is it like being a woman in weatherization? Advantages? Challenges?

I am fortunate that in WA state the road was paved early on by women in this prior role and are leaders in the industry today. Many of the challenges I faced as a woman were as an Energy Auditor. Truthfully, personal safety and access to public restrooms were the biggest hurdles. Sometimes it can be the simplest things that can be the most challenging. I am very much interested in bringing more women into the trade as auditors, inspectors, and installers. Women sometimes get undervalued for the technical astuteness these roles require.

Why do you work in weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

I am passionate about weatherization and the impact it can have on homes in reducing energy burden, making the home healthier and more efficient, and preserving housing stock that is needed in many parts of the country. Weatherization in 2024 is far more encompassing and advanced than when I started in 2009. There is far more flexibility in funding as well as wrap-around programs that truly can raise the standard of living for families. Weatherization incorporates and supports so many industries that there is no shortage of avenues for professional growth. From social services at the agency level to legislative engagement at the state and federal level, from manufacturing of energy efficiency systems, academia, training, trades, and so much more. Weatherization is at a crossroads in all of it. There is very little reason to get bored or uninspired. I am fortunate to work with an incredible team in a state that is focused on decarbonization, uplifting families, and working collaboratively with partners in the multitude of sister programs we have in Washington. When I do have challenging days, I think of the homes and families that need our programs. Tackling the issues at a state level is challenging, but for me, that is what motivates me. I believe in what I do, and I have seen it first-hand.

Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the weatherization field?

Do not be intimidated! There is so much support in any aspect of this industry one may be interested in. Now more than ever, there are so many professional opportunities for women in this industry.

This article was originally published in the NASCSP blog and is republished with permission.

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