Yesterday, Intel hosted the first west coast summit of the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future at our offices in Santa Clara. The day brought together a mix of women (and a few brave men) from across the spectrum of the sustainability field in Silicon Valley – from business (including Intel, HP, Symantec, Adobe, and Applied Materials) to government to academia – to talk about the potential of clean tech to help businesses reduce their environmental impact and drive economic recovery and to network with other women leaders working on these issues.The panel included Intel’s own Lorie Wigle, General Manager of our Eco-Tech program office, Bonnie Nixon of HP, Nancy Parmer of UPS, Mary Dent from SVB Financial (a lender for clean tech companies), and Margaret Bruce from The Climate Group. Lorie and Bonnie shared their views on the opportunity for technology companies to help reduce the environmental impact of computing activities (which accounts for about 2% of worldwide emissions according to recent studies). They spoke of the impact and strategic opportunities associated with more energy-efficient processors and products, including significant advances in data center efficiency. More importantly, they talked about the opportunity to drive significant energy reductions (and new market opportunities for tech companies) by addressing “the other 98%” – whether it’s applying technology and new processes to the printing industry, to construction and manufacturing. Nancy talked about UPS’s efforts to use data to help their customers reduce their own carbon footprints as well elaborating on the oft-cited example of how they used technology to optimize their delivery routes to eliminate left hand turns, saving 3 millions of gas a year. Mary provided a different perspective from a financial organization that works with clean tech companies on funding and the need for finding the right incentives and market mechanisms to encourage innovation. Margaret talked about the need for collaboration and highlighted the recent Smart2020 report which talks about opportunities for ICT to help reduce carbon emissions across the economy. The panel and audience also engaged in a discussion about career opportunities for women in the clean tech and sustainability areas, and whether women were inherently “better” at thinking about solution to sustainability issues or whether they had a unique role to play, particularly at the senior executive and board level. Others felt that there was no real difference between men and women on this issue, but that there was value in finding new opportunities to increase representation of women in the industry. I personally found it inspiring to be surrounded by that many accomplished women from my chosen field in one room for an afternoon, to share best practices and brainstorm on new ideas and solutions. We were also very fortunate to hear from Mary D. Nichols, the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, who spoke about the role that government and policymakers are playing (working with companies and other organizations) to address climate change and support the clean tech industry. She noted in her remarks that California received about 60% of all clean tech investment last year in the U.S. And no summit on technology these days is complete without tweets and blogs – we were fortunate to be joined at the event by a number of bloggers from the technology and environmental areas, including triple pundit and greenbiz.
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