Women IN Energy conference leaves a lasting impression

After a celebratory group photo, the planning committee and I were able to step back and appreciate the result of months of hard work.  Women IN Energy held its third annual conference in late October gathering energy professionals from across several sectors to discuss innovation, technology and the role women play in the industry. This small but mighty group of planning committee members consists of women from MISO, EDP Renewables, Microsoft, Duke Energy, IPL, ACES, and Parr Richey.

The first conference, held in 2017, was founded by Kelly Snyder of EDP Renewables and Tameka McNair of Microsoft. The two women wanted to encourage their female energy colleagues to go after their dreams and pursue industry networking and innovation opportunities.  I was asked to join the planning efforts, not exactly sure how I would contribute. Three conferences later, I am so thankful I said yes!

This year’s theme was Partnering to Power the Future. To kick off the day’s events, the co-founders shared why they started the conference and communicated statistics from McKinsey on Women in the Workplace. In the last five years, more women have risen to the top levels of companies, and an increasing number of companies are seeing the value of having more women in leadership.

Keynote speaker Sherina Maye Edwards of Quarles & Brady then shared very useful leadership advice about meaningful partnerships. “Establish a legacy, but pass the baton,” she said. She commented that you should encourage every member of your team to be prepared to run. What she said this year really spoke to me – someone passed the baton to me and now it’s time to pass it on and bring someone else along.

Maye Edwards’ speech was followed by the executive panel. Kelly Snyder served as the panel’s moderator and welcomed Aaron Johnson, Lisa Krueger, and Mary Jo Thomas, representing leadership from Kinetrex Energy, AES, and Whitewater Valley REMC, respectively, who shared their perspectives on partnering for diversity in leadership.

This year’s conference also featured three breakout speakers. Jon Colby, an improv expert, got attendees out of their seats and made them laugh while picking up useful tips on how to be a “Yes, and…” partner. Carolyn Mosby, president, and CEO at Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council shared her moving experience with resilience. Author, entrepreneur, and activist Nate Turner told attendees to embrace the full vision of their best lives.

The conference also featured Winnie Lam and Priscilla Johnson who spoke on behalf of Google and Microsoft, respectively. Lam shared insights on how Google is helping utilities transform themselves in light of industry changes, and Johnson discussed the role of cybersecurity through blockchain.

I am so proud of what we accomplished, and even more, I am excited about how many people from MISO enjoyed it – 60 participants were from MISO alone. I received compliments from those who can’t wait to attend next year, who loved the messages of the day and truly appreciated all the details the planning committee worked so hard to achieve.

The feedback we have received since the conference has been tremendous. One attendee said, “the feeling of empowerment is evident in each attendee. This conference allows us the networking experience to bolster our confidence in going forward.” Another said, “this conference inspired thought. I am now considering my desire for upward and lateral mobility in my company. I am also curious and motivated to learn more about my industry and utilities in general.”

I couldn’t be more grateful to be a woman working at MISO, a place that supports and appreciates my work on this event and the event itself, and also gives the opportunity for employees to take a professional development day to see how women are moving the future of energy forward, as well as how they can, too.

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