March 8, 2022
NGSA is proud to celebrate 2022’s International Women’s Day. See what some of our staff had to say about this year’s theme #breakingthebias.
NGSA Women in Energy Q&A
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, NGSA sat down with staff to discuss the vital roles women play in the natural gas and energy industries, how the industry is changing, how women can continue to grow and shape the industry from the ground up, and how staff is embracing this year’s theme #breakingthebias. Below are some excerpts from those discussions.
- What’s the best advice you got from a mentor about the energy industry?
Casey: I once heard Dena speaking at a women’s event use the Madeleine Albright’s quote: “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I think about that all the time so now when I hear about speaking opportunities, job openings, networking, etc, that’s a top priority, is to support my fellow women industry leaders.
Katie: There are so many elements to the energy industry, figure out what aspects you are passionate about, make that your niche and become an expert.
Pat: At times when I have too much on my plate, tight deadlines or a new opportunity, I think back to what a high-level policymaker told me many years ago – that if you don’t feel like you are in over your head, you aren’t in the right job. Don’t settle for easy and challenge yourself so that there is always room to grow. While this applies more broadly to positions in any industry, I think it’s important to understand that everyone feels this way from time to time, especially women, who should never second guess that they are up to the challenge.
Daphne: When I first started in the energy industry. I had a boss tell me that I would spend the first six months learning the basics and the next many decades learning to be humble about how much I still had left to learn. That’s proved true. I also learned from her example to always share credit for your work, and that people work better when they’re happier. There’s nothing wrong with taking a couple of minutes in the middle of a long day to joke that you just realized you’ve been wearing two different shoes or that the dog loudly threw up on the rug during your presentation. We all need those shared human moments to recharge our batteries for the work ahead.
- What is the last thing you learned at your job that surprised you?
Casey: How history repeats itself, even with the energy industry. While we are always looking for the next, big emerging policy or issue, I’m surprised to find sometimes that the next big thing is a policy refresh from 10 or 20 years ago. It’s interesting to see how much has evolved in the energy industry but also what has held true.
Katie: The energy industry is so dynamic, there is always something new to learn about and always new ways to grow and improve. With the development of new technologies, to changing political dynamics the work in this field never stagnates. You have to be able to adjust your thinking and adapt to new challenges.
Pat: The past two years of living through a pandemic has been a struggle for everyone both personally and professionally as we were forced to navigate our way through our lives in ways we had never experienced. During this time, what surprised me most is how seamlessly we were able to successfully work remotely and still get the job done — perhaps better than before in some respects in terms of productivity. However, what is missing is the face-to-face interaction with my colleagues that a zoom call will never replace.
Daphne: The pandemic has brought lots of surprises. I expected a lot of the downsides, but the upsides have been unexpected – like the gain in productivity — and sometimes really wonderful.—like seeing and experiencing the cuteness of my co-workers’ kids and pets. One small thing that totally shocked me is just how few things need to be printed on paper. I already knew this in theory but working remotely has turned this into a daily reminder that 99% of the content I create will only be accessed digitally so keep it short and visually impactful.
- When you meet new people, do you find that they have preconceptions about women who work in the energy industry?
Casey: Not as much anymore. I think energy, particularly under the Biden Administration, is a hot topic issue that everyone wants to engage on. There’s a space for everyone to be a part of the transition to a clean energy future.
Katie: I don’t know if there is a preconception about women in energy, but in general I would say there is a preconception about political affiliations regarding people in energy.
Pat: As a woman who has been in the energy industry for many years, I have found that there is a general misconception about my political affiliation and that I must be Republican, especially to represent natural gas producers. To the contrary, my political views are very aligned with supporting this industry our industry, which has already done so much to lower emissions with natural gas replacing coal for power generation. Also, they are leading the way in committing to dramatic reductions in emissions through new investments and technologies and supporting market mechanisms that encourage actions that will help us meet our climate goals. It’s exciting to participate in advocacy that results in actions that will help our climate.
Daphne: Here in Washington, I think people focus more on the natural gas industry part and not on my gender – and it takes a while to break through all the misconceptions about our industry. Yes, we care about the environment just as much as you do, maybe more, and knowing that I’m making a difference in building a cleaner future for my kids is one of the reasons I like my job so much. We have more in common than you think.
- Do you have a dream for women in the energy industry?
Casey: My dream is for more women elevated to C-Suite roles. We know that diversity promotes new ideas and better decision-making across a company. Let’s shake things up by having more women at the top.
Katie: My dream for women in the energy transition is that they take on leadership roles as the energy transition evolves. I think women are especially well suited to see and push for the changes that are needed.
Pat: While I have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of women in the energy industry over the past decade, even in high-level positions, I believe that an imbalance still exists for board level positions. My dream is that women in this industry will set reaching board-level positions as a goal early in their careers and that, over time, we will see more women holding board seats, giving them a greater role in setting the course for companies and other industry organizations.
Daphne: Women at every level. We are so close!
- Have you been in (a) work situation(s) where women weren’t being given an equal voice and if so, how did you deal with it?
Charlie: Hearing previous colleagues stories about lackluster maternity leave policies and poor treatment while on leave, and having been through paternity leave 3 times myself, I knew I wanted to do more to help shape future parental leave policies if I was ever in a position to do so. I had that opportunity at NGSA and I am hopeful that our new policy is one that continues to reduce the awful stigma that woman must choose between being a mom or professional – as my wife and many of the women I work with have shown me, they can be incredibly successful at both.
Hinson: In both professional and academic settings, I have seen the impacts of women not being given equal voices and decision-making power, and each time it has resulted in subpar results. While working at a summer job in high school, my employer would not hire women despite multiple applicants, and despite our organization working almost exclusively with female clients. Time and time again I would mention to my boss that we needed female input at a staff level as the decisions being made often were counterproductive to the needs of our clients and such our organization.