Orlando, Florida — The advice that Pennwell’s 2014 Woman of the Year, Mary Powell, gave to women in the power industry during Tuesday’s Women in Power Luncheon might come as a surprise to some. It was this: Stop undercutting each other. Powell said the most difficult obstacles she has encountered in her various leadership roles have not come from men, but rather from other women. Small comments like “I don’t know how you do it [being a mom and holding a high-level job]”, serve to bring doubt and uncertainty to high achieving women in any industry, and ultimately can lead to women exiting their careers in order to fit what they perceive is the societal norm.
Powell, who is CEO of utility Green Mountain Power, does not see a gender gap in the utility industry, but an ambition gap—one she believes begins when girls as young as 12 start to doubt themselves and their abilities to achieve in tough industries. Powell said these doubts are largely brought on by other girls.
This is unfortunate she said because women bring a different perspective to the table, one that economically benefits companies according to study after study. The world is made up of many different types of people, and if companies want to serve a diverse set of customers, it behooves them to have a diverse workforce in their own organizations. A study released in the fall by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) backed up her claims. The report, Talent at the Table, examined how utilities were handling the changing landscape, particularly in light of the increase in distributed generation. It found that those utilities with more women in leadership roles were navigating the changing tides much more easily, and were bringing more innovation to their companies. As a result, these utilities were more profitable.
About 90 women attended Pennwell’s Women in Power luncheon to hear Powell’s inspirational speech.
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