By Jennifer Runyon
One of the goals of PennWell’s Women in Power committee is to encourage young women to enter the power industry and on Tuesday at the Women in Power luncheon during Power Generation Week, Women of the Year finalists participated in a panel discussion that focused on how to do that. The energy industry is in flux right now and utilities need to have a diverse set of opinions and ideas at the upper management level in order to rise to the challenges before them. Having women in those leadership roles is key.
Sheri Blauweikel, Executive Vice President and Director of Project Support, Energy Division at Black & Veatch encouraged audience member to tell their stories because working in the power industry is fascinating.
“When I look at all the things I have gotten to do I only wish that all these kids coming in get these same opportunities,” she said, adding, “I've interacted with some of the most mega projects in the world.”
Most of the panelists agreed that young people don’t understand the power industry and even those with engineering degrees, unless they have studied electrical engineering, barely understand what “the grid” means.
Nancy Mohn retired Strategy and Marketing Executive with GE said that she didn’t learn how a power plant worked until after she started her first job. She encouraged audience members to visit Million Women Mentors where they can sign up to mentor women and girls in STEM careers.
Roxann Laird, Director of the National Carbon Capture Center at Southern Company spoke of the importance of seeking feedback even when that feedback may be hard to accept.
“Oftentimes we aren't in the position of getting that direct feedback that we might need to hear about things that we can do better,” she said. She added that “as women we need to be comfortable receiving that kind of criticism.”
All of the panelists said that mentors come in all forms and are not limited to upper management. They encouraged women should seek their own mentors, find people with whom they connect and reach out to them for advice.
Mohn who retired in September reflected back on her career and explained that it was when a senior executive at her company publicly stated that Mohn was her mentor that Mohn understood mentors can come from all across an organization.
“Look everywhere for your mentors. What is it you need? Do you need to understand your own career path? Are you looking to understand the politics of project management in the company? Are you looking for answers to technical questions or are you trying to figure out finance? There are people who are willing to share their knowledge and they don't all have to be vice presidents,” she said.