Keeping Your High Potentials Engaged

September 2012, Vol. 239 No. 9

Elizabeth M. Fischer, Communications Coordinator, Midwest ENERGY Association

Are you an energy distribution company? Are you having trouble attracting and keeping talented employees? There may be a pool of high potentials already available!

Women today want to expand their opportunities for leadership growth; inclusion provides the incentive needed for them to dedicate themselves to their companies. Women are more than capable of working in any environment, but they want to be made to feel comfortable in the process.

Thinking that they don’t fit in or that they are overlooked can influence women to seek different employment. Sponsoring and fully supporting their leadership growth through education and resource groups provides female employees with a forum to feel heard and understood with the knowledge that they are not alone. They can lead.

Energetic Women is the national resource group for women in the energy industry. The group started as a suggestion by a male committee volunteer of the Midwest ENERGY Association (MEA). Finding that no similar group existed in the energy industry, MEA decided to sponsor the initiative.

Stephanie Menning, vice president, gas services for MEA, says the “Association agreed that it was a great opportunity to help the industry, help women in male-dominated roles, and help our member companies become leaders in this area.”

Energetic Women has encouraged several other energy utilities to create women’s resource groups within their organizations. These groups help retain talent, add diversity to the ranks, and demonstrate that your organization believes that women do have what it takes to lead in a male-dominated industry. Menning knows that Energetic Women’s efforts help because of the many notes, e-mails, and even personal thanks she has gotten for the group and what it inspires.

Karima Hasan Bey, manager of gas operations for NiSource, Inc. and a member of Energetic Women, is a living example of how support – through mentorship – helped her to advance. She was working in the steel industry and was not happy.

“I was frustrated, personally, professionally, and it showed within my lack of leadership for those people I supervised,” she says. Her manager told her that she had to make a change or lose her job.

Realizing that her manager was right, Bey signed up for leadership training. She explains, “I was in a room with a group of people who were just like me. We didn’t know how to lead or how to build interpersonal relations.”

The class taught Bey that belief in your ability to lead prepares you for that opportunity. So she used her training to move into a new position at a natural gas distribution company.

At NiSource, Bey helps mentor her employees by telling them her story. She explains how empowering people can help the company. Today, Bey is on the Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council, where she helps with the initiatives NiSource is implementing throughout the organization.

Bey now inspires a new vision; she is the first female minority leader in her division. “I broke that glass ceiling. To pave the way for others, I must constantly learn and prove myself qualified for the position.”

She believes the greatest disservice to diversity is giving someone a position “just because.” As she explains, “No matter how you got the job [it’s yours], so you need to continue to learn new things and interact with others or you are just stereotyping yourself.”

Resource groups work best when the message is clear. Energetic Women’s goal is to inspire women by providing education and network opportunities to increase leadership skills. The group is working toward increasing the pool of promotable women in energy operations and engineering.

Energetic Women understands that the keys to success and sustainability are to have men fully engaged in gender initiatives; women’s resource groups fully funded; and strong upper-level management support. It is also imperative for these resource groups to be engaged in strategic objectives that benefit the company and the bottom line.

Bey’s mentor was a man; now she, in turn, mentors others. She and Energetic Women agree that in the end it is not about gender – it is about working together to have motivated and qualified people working for the good of the company.

For more information contact Stephanie Menning at (651) 289-6900 x114; she can also be reached at stephm@midwestenergy.org or www.energeticwomen.org.

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