Women in Wind 2021 Q&A: Aoife Mc Mahon
The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Aoife Mc Mahon, Philippines Country Manager at Mainstream Renewable Power and one of the Mentors of the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program 2021, to chat about her career in the renewable energy industry and key challenges and opportunities to enhance gender diversity across the wind power sector.
Since joining Mainstream in 2013, Aoife has held senior positions in both the Corporate Finance team and previous to that, the Group Finance team. Her experience in the Corporate Finance team included closing over €300m in corporate debt arrangements, leading on the disposal of two wind farms, assisting in a grey market process and managing the company’s corporate debt and shareholder relationships. She also provided corporate support to local project finance teams. In her role in Group Finance, Aoife was responsible for preparing the Group’s Annual Report, preparing management reporting deliverables and heavily involved in the budget process. Formerly, Aoife spent four years working with PwC where she obtained her ACA qualification. Aoife holds a Bachelor of Commerce from University College Dublin and a MBA from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?
After I received my accounting qualification, I wanted to join an innovative, fast-paced industry where my work would leave a positive contribution to the world. The renewable energy sector ticked all the boxes. I was so lucky to join a (reasonably) small, entrepreneurial Irish company that had a global footprint. I loved the mission and values of Mainstream Renewable Power and have remained there since. I have become more passionate about clean energy with every year I spend working in this sector.
Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. How has this business changed over the course of your career so far? For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?
When I first joined the sector I was a relatively new qualified accountant. I worked in a Group Finance role for approximately 3 years. I later transitioned over to the Corporate Finance function which gave me a tremendous overview of how different stakeholders view the industry. I then moved into a development role and have gained huge knowledge of the technical aspects of renewable projects.
I would never have been able to predict the sheer pace of the renewables industry over this period. It has exceeded all my expectations and the growth trajectory has never been better.
I believe that the world will see 10s of offshore wind GWs being built this decade. This is the right move for many governments with excellent offshore resources and land constraints. Another technology that we have been hearing a lot about recently is clean hydrogen, and it is one to keep an eye in the near term. In addition, as storage costs decline, they will become a standard part of new renewable projects.
What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector? Can you tell us about an achievement wherein you overcame such a challenge?
There is no doubt but there are not many females in very senior positions in the renewables sector. However, I believe this has been changing in recent years. Programs such as Women in Wind are a testament to the turning tide. I also see many more young females joining STEM courses and looking to join the industry. This is so encouraging. I am very proud to work for a company with a female CEO and gender parity is something that Mainstream Renewable Power and many others in the industry are standing behind.
Candidates now look for diversity and inclusion values when joining a firm and businesses need to step up in order to attract good staff. I have often been in meetings, or on teams, where I am the only female in the room. I have always tried to focus on my work and to date it has stood to me. I would encourage women to try to call out inappropriate behavior, in a polite manner, should they feel discriminated against. Always try to find a trustworthy colleague to share experiences with, who can back you up and build your confidence, if speaking out in a group.