When I began my career at Westinghouse Electric Company as a design engineer in 1978, I would not have imagined that I would one day be senior vice president of nuclear fuel, with responsibility for a global product line that delivers approximately a third of the company’s sales. At the time, I didn’t even bother signing up for the company’s savings plan — after all, it took three years to vest, and I certainly wasn’t going to stay with one company for that long.
With the benefit of hindsight (forty years of experience with Westinghouse will provide that opportunity), I can safely say that I would not be the person or leader that I am today without the experiences I gained while at Westinghouse. I’ve had the great opportunity to work in China and see how bringing safe, clean, reliable electricity to people raises their standard of living. I’ve traveled to Ukraine, where we’re bringing stability to the region by providing an alternative to the country’s dependence on nuclear fuel from Russia. Here in the United States, I’ve been able to make contributions to different product lines and organizations, while growing along with the company.
Raising the bar
That’s not to say that my work is done. We have significantly improved our diversity profile from when I first joined Westinghouse. At that time, I practically knew the name of every woman in the workplace. Because there were so few of us. While that is not true today, out of our 10,500 employees worldwide, only 21 percent identify as female. We at Westinghouse are not unique. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2016, participation of women in the oil and gas industry was below 20 percent. In order to achieve more, the energy sector needs to include more women and encourage young girls to embrace math and science challenges. We need to present them with the opportunities that a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career can provide. Most importantly, we need to show them early and often that the possibilities for their leadership do exist. We do that at Westinghouse through various outreach programs, including our popular Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Hosted by our Women in Nuclear (WIN) members, this day enables girls to partner with engineers at our facilities to preview a career in STEM. These students get a sneak-peak into the opportunities they have a sustaining difference in the world.
The importance of stewardship
As I reach this level in my own career, I feel a strong responsibility to mentor and guide future generations of women who are just beginning their careers in energy. I began this work early in my career, as I sponsored the first Pittsburgh-area chapter of the WIN organization. I went on to co-host national WIN conferences, witnessing firsthand the positive impact that a women’s affinity group can have to promote women and their achievements, particularly in a male-dominated field. I’ve continued to engage with WIN chapters throughout my career, and I’m proud to say I’ll be addressing the U.S. WIN Conference later this summer to further highlight the impact women have in the energy sector.
Women are proudly taking on leadership positions across the energy industry. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a female at the helm, while several of our National Labs have female leaders. While women play key roles in the energy industry — for instance Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility — female executives are still a rarity. We need leadership at all levels to continue to value a diverse workforce. We all have more work to do. We must ensure that women are represented throughout the energy sector and fill our STEM pipeline with diversity in order to ensure the future is indeed a good one.