Economic development portfolio manager, Aurora Wind Power
In South Africa currently, women (as well as people living with disabilities) are scarcely represented in the economic development sphere, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Jolene Shaw (31) has defeated the odds and is making noteworthy strides in this considerably male-dominated industry. “I feel privileged to be part of this industry, which not only provides clean energy options for our future but also allows me to use myself as a catalyst to bring about meaningful and inclusive change for others.”
Shaw, who recently completed her master’s in public administration through Stellenbosch University, is currently managing Aurora Wind Power’s economic development portfolio. “Our programmes range from early childhood development initiatives to providing tertiary bursaries to needy students. South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) has provided an excellent opportunity for independent power producers to invest in the communities surrounding their operations, most often marginalized communities,” she says. It is because of the newness of the renewable energy programme in the country and the amount of investment directed towards economic development in the programme that Jolene believes the opportunity is ripe for impactful community work.
One of Jolene’s biggest motivations in life has been the opportunity to engage in developmental work to help change the course of people’s lives. Having attended six different schools — ranging from private schools in Zimbabwe to public schools in Cape Town — has armed Shaw with insight into the way that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the courtesy of opportunities for development extended to them. She expresses an appreciation for the fact that although her moving between many different schools “was decidedly disruptive in [my] childhood, I believe this unique perspective formed the basis of my work in economic development today. Acutely understanding the difference between having opportunities in life and the limitations cast on an individual who doesn’t have those same or similar opportunities has shaped my commitment to community work.”
A life lesson Jolene holds dearly is: “run your own race.” She believes “there is a big difference between drawing inspiration from someone else’s success and comparing yourself to it. At times when I feel I have not achieved enough, I just look back at my own journey and realise that I have pushed through my own limitations and that is phenomenal.”
— Simphiwe Rens