Women in Energy
Closing the STEM Gender Gap
Women in Energy : Closing the STEM Gender Gap
November 19, 2020 | By Progressive
Despite efforts to promote and encourage women’s involvement in the energy sector, it remains one of the least gender diverse sectors in the U.S. economy according to the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The report finds that the number of women in the energy sector ranges from just 23 percent to 32 percent, compared to the overall economy where women make up 47 percent of the workforce.
In research conducted by the Clean Energy Ministerial, it was discovered that “careers in the energy sector are generally not being pitched to women through formal channels such as career counselors, student employment advisors, job centers, recruitment sessions, or career fairs.” The structural and cultural challenges that women face, in addition to the lack of women in leadership positions in energy, compounds the difficulty in recruiting and retaining female talent in the energy sector.
Rick Meese My name is Rick Messe, senior director for Progressive USA, and I’ll be the moderator for today’s exciting event. Our event today is titled Women in Energy, closing the STEM gender gap. Before we kick this session, here are a couple of initial nervousness from me. The first is, if you like to ask our panelists a question, please use the Q&A function and we will try to get to the as many questions by the end of the session. Secondly, today, we are focusing on women in energy so that we can tell the stories and share the experiences of our esteemed panelists because they happen to be women in leadership positions in energy. However, it’s important to know that we support representation, equality, and inclusion across the board. And I personally hope that everyone in the audience can take something away from today’s discussion, even if the focus does not directly represent them. And then finally, I want to know and let the panelists know and you know that I sit before everyone is a moderator, but an equal part, a student. Building diverse organizations can be a challenge, especially for myself. So, I’m excited to get new perspectives on the matter today as we dive into the discussion. So, at progressive, our purpose is to bring skilled people together to build the future, and these events are designed to create a platform to discuss these key issues and allow us to build the sort of future that we hope to imagine. And today, we are very fortunate to be joined by our esteemed panelists who bring significant expertise and impressive careers across the energy industry. So, I’m confident that today’s discussion will be equally illuminating as it is engaging. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce our panelists. So, Janisse, if you wouldn’t mind kicking us off and introducing yourself, that’d be great.
Janisse Quiñones Of course, so good afternoon for those on the East Coast and good morning for the rest of you. My name is Janisse Quinones, born and raised in Puerto Rico, a mother of five huge Brady Bunch. I’m the vice president of Gas Systems Engineering for National Grid. And my responsibilities are the distribution and transmission design of gas, natural gas assets, the corrosion shop meter shops, Maxim Records, and our public works team. I’m also a Commander Select for the United States Coast Guard Reserve, where I manage the prevention mission for Sector Boston.
Rick Meese Thank you, Janisse. Next up, Vicky, would you mind introducing yourself, please?
Vicky Jackson Nielsen Thank you, Rick. Good morning. Good afternoon to everybody. My name is Vicky Jackson Nielsen. I’m the director for drilling and completions for Hess Corporation for our North Dakota assets. I am also a mother, mother of two teenage boys, one of which is about to go to college, so very exciting there. Did apply to UC San Diego, Rick, so it may be a chance to come see you in San Diego. I have about almost 30 years of experience in the oil and gas business. My background is actually in petroleum engineering and I have worked for various companies throughout the oil and gas business, mostly in the upstream completion side. So, this is this is the group of people who actually complete the wells so that we can produce oil and gas.
With that, I’ll turn it back to I’ll turn it over to Kimberlee.
Kimberlee Centera Thank you, Kimberlee Centera, and I’m the founder and owner of TerraPro Solutions. We are a risk mitigation consulting firm with a national footprint. I have over 25 years in renewable energy. So, go back to the very early days. So, thrilled to be here and be on this panel.
Rick Meese Well, thanks to each of you, and it’s exciting to get underway on today’s event, obviously, there is a wealth of experience, significant seniority. And also, representation across the entire energy spectrum. So, I started to see panels from utilities renewable as oil and gas, but all joined in a common theme about being women who’ve come into leadership positions in energy. So, I’m excited to learn from each of you. To provide some context before we get into the discussion, the energy sector itself remains one of the least gender diverse sectors in the US, according to a 20 20 report, the report found that that women in the energy sector represent between 23 and 32 percent, depending on the sub sector of the total workforce. And speaking offline with the panelists, I remember you guys saying that that was probably even a high estimate from your own experiences. I see Kimberlee nodding to that to that comment there. So. With it being such a low representation, you know, we’re looking to get into a discussion to unearth the benefits of improving representation, learning from each of you and hearing some of your stories. Understanding what all of us can do as companies to improve representation for the future and then finally at the end talk about allyship and particular male allyship in leadership so that we can begin to build more diverse leadership teams.
So, to kick things off, I think we’ll ask Janisse our first question. So Janisse, other than the clear ethical reasons that I think we can all agree to improve representation or increase representation across the board. What are some of the other benefits that you’ve seen or believe we should be able to experience at the energy sector would increase representation, diversity and equality across the board?
Janisse Quiñones Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Rick. Your numbers are pretty high, I would admit, and I think my fellow panelists will agree to this. So, I was doing a little bit of homework for this for this speech. Thank you. They are talk. Yeah. And one of the metrics that I saw was that only six percent of CEOs are female and the energy industry and about only 11 percent are in senior positions. And most of those positions are CFOs or marketing officers or customer officers. So, seeing woman on technical fields or operations is even less. And I don’t have the numbers, but I feel that number is right. So, I’m one of eight and my bosses’ team and I’m the only female in the team at my level.
So, having said that, let me just start by talking a little bit about the difference between diversity, inclusion and equality, because I think that’s critical in the conversation. First, diversity is the numbers game, right? It’s what’s the representation in the company. What’s that data? What’s telling us how much of what we have in the organization, which is the first step into the moving and the equality, is really bringing in the diverse talent in the company. But more importantly is the inclusion aspect of it, which means after you bring them in, are you going to allow them to be themselves? Right. As is that if you bring them to the company and now, they have to start acting like their peers, which is the majority. And I think that’s the area where I struggle the most in my career because I can’t change who I am right. Who I am, comes from my background, my experiences, and it’s very different than the next person that comes along. Right. So, inclusions really bring in the diverse talent and letting them be themselves and tapping into that potential with the diverse experiences and ideas. And then the last one, which is really one that we continue to fight us as female in the STEM field, is equality and equality, not just on pay, but equality on decision making, power, equality and opportunities for development, equality and and being given the same amount of requirements for the next level and just having the encouragement to apply for the next level positions. So, just in that framework, let me say the benefits that I think we see on and on equality outside of the obvious, right. That the difference of opinions, of different ideas, it’s been proven that people with more diverse talent have better financial results. That’s in the data. But the disruption and innovation that comes from diverse talent and inclusion is significant. So, when you see companies that are actually pushing the envelope, you’ll see bigger numbers on diversity and inclusion on those areas. I think the other thing is just having a better working environment, talent, attraction and retention, which costs millions of dollars of corporate America every year. So, you do a lot of work trying to find the talent. This is the business you’re in, recruit them, but then you can retain them. And that turnaround is just really bleeding money out. And that and the progress you made on the integration of stalled because you’ve got to start the cycle over and then is just being more flexible and growth mindset company because you have a better understanding of a bigger picture and you’re able to let people just tap into areas where you are not comfortable and are outside of your normal thinking process.
Rick Meese OK, thank you. So, for my learning about what I’m hearing is that diversity can often be the symbolic numbers that a company is putting out to show its intent, but it’s in the inclusion and equality that the benefits come through. Is that what it is? Is that what you’re saying?
Janisse Quiñones That that has been my experience? Yes, absolutely.
Rick Meese Thank you for sharing. Kimberlee, from your experience. I think Janisse talked about the financial benefit. When a company embraces this and actually behaves in this way from the work that you’ve done in your career, have you got any specifics or specific examples where you’ve where you’ve seen a company go through that evolution and end up in a better financial position?
Kimberlee Centera Well, probably my own you know, I deployed predominantly women, and I always tell people it’s not political. It’s just because when I looked around to hire the people, all the smart people that I wanted to hire were women. But I think there’s a lot of challenges with that kind of workforce because, you know, women sometimes were our worst enemies. And so, we spent a lot of time mentoring, training, working with our teams, working with our people. So, I love what Janisse said because I think it’s really where the rubber hits the road to stop the numbers. It’s the day to day. And I think it requires a big commitment. I mean, I probably a much smaller company than than a lot of folks here, but I think we really feel the challenges because we are small and we’re interacting in a very real and authentic basis. This year was really a test of, you know, our company, our business. We said we decided what our values were this year. We were very vocal about articulating those to the company and that we had a big test this summer because we had some issues where we really had to decide who are we and are we really going to live up to our values? And that was tough.
Because, you know, we talk about it, but have to have to really live up to it and really decide and put it into practice. We did it. And and the results are amazing. I mean, we have now such a great cohesive team. We really have each other’s backs. And with COVID and all the things that are going on, people’s schedules, kids at home, and, you know, we have to be able to jump in for each other and even jump in for our clients. And our clients are, oh, my gosh, I can’t get all my work done, I’ve got kids at home. So, but this idea of developing this talent and what it looks like on a real time basis, I think as leaders, we have to really decide what that looks like. And we have to make, and I think it’s reciprocal. It’s it’s not just women stepping up more, which we need to do, but all the data supports that. You know, leadership has to step in as well. You know, women, even if they’re there’s I read an article recently about even if women are as confident as men, confidence in men will carry them much further in their careers than women. It doesn’t work the same. So, yes, we had a test this year and we had to really show up and really make some tough decisions. We did. And as a result, we have a much, much greater workforce. But I think it requires a real commitment.
Rick Meese OK, well, thank you for sharing. I’m curious to understand. Just quickly, we have to move on to the next question, Sam, but I’m curious, understand what those values were and how and why and how difficult they were put to the test and how they potentially reflect an attitude of inclusion and equality. And if there’s anything that you could share, that that would be quite fascinating.
Kimberlee Centera Yes, right. It’s a great question. Right. And I think because that’s really what it comes down to. It was a matter of how people were treated, right? It’s a matter of how people are treated. And the interesting thing is, is that it’s not always men and women. Sometimes it’s same gender. In this case, it was same gender where we had the tension. And so that was a shock to me. You know, it’s like I think I built this company where we have this certain, you know, be a good human. We’re all in the trenches together, be a professional, you know. And then we had this tension, this issue that came up. And so, we had to really ask ourselves and looking at this issue and deciding, you know, there were there were things that were going on behind the scenes. We had someone that was had great technical skills and we wanted to move them into a management role. And when we started to look at their interactions with their teams, we saw a lot of problems. We saw a lot of issues. And so, in looking at that, we decided we couldn’t promote this person and in fact, they were actually not helpful. So, yes, it supports diversity and inclusion because deciding what your culture is and who you are and what you represent is the first step. That’s really and I think in leadership, we have to be clear. We have to be crystal clear on on who that is, because our company is only as good as we are. Our company is only as good as the leadership. If I don’t show up and I’m not there and I’m not living the values and my team can’t see that, then it doesn’t matter why. I see. So that’s why.
Rick Meese Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing and it is fascinating to see that story unfold in a same gender frame. And I guess that speaks to, you know, the gender neutrality of true inclusion. You can work on your diversity numbers, as Janisse said, but you need to still look at everyone. It sounds like what I’m hearing is that when you’re building a business and when you’re in leadership, you need to look at everyone through as equal a lens as you can, regardless, regardless of gender. And it sounds like that’s that’s how you applied your values in that in that case, is that correct?
All right, well, thanks for that. Moving on to our next question, I’d like to invite Vicki to contribute and to use the words of Kimberlee, I think you said, and I don’t want to misquote you, I think you said sometimes women can be their own worst enemies. Is that what you said? OK, so with that sort of in mind, I don’t know if this applies at all to Vicky, but the question is, what do you believe has contributed to becoming to you becoming a successful leader in your career so far? And does any of maybe does that quote at all ring true with you? The Kimberlee’s quote there.
Vicky Jackson Nielsen So Kimberlee’s quote does ring true to me, unfortunately, though, I have had very few female leaders in my in my same gender path, although I, going back to the to the to the leader, the question one of the things I think for me is mentoring and I don’t mean this in the sense of, you know, formal mentors. This is people that you can go to and people that you can ask questions of and ask them leadership questions and ask them and life questions. I had a boss really pretty early on in my career. I was probably about 20 years ago. And he was very, very open to any kind of question. And I mean, I used to ask him questions about how should I get married or not get married. I didn’t know my husband or anything, but it was one of those questions that I needed somebody to ask the question to. And he was really authentic. And I think that was one of the things that was most significant to me from a leadership perspective is to be authentic and to be humble.
So, I think my turning point when, you didn’t actually ask, we had preprimary questions and one of his questions was about a watershed moment of leadership. And I had one about 20 years ago, in fact, about the time that I met Rick, to be honest, maybe 10 years ago we were working on a project in the Gulf of Mexico and we needed to figure out what we needed to do during hurricane season. And I had gotten a whole group of people together in a room, and it was an absolute disaster of a meeting. I had a bunch of senior leaders. Nobody could come to any conclusions about anything. Nobody wanted to offer an opinion. And everybody in the room looked at me and said, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. And at that moment, I realized that I needed to just step up and be the leader that everybody was looking at me to be instead of asking other people for their advice and their help. And so, for me, it was really the recognition that I did have the right answer. And I did know what it was that I was talking about. And yeah, it was a room full of men because I work in the oil and gas business. And I think that the significance for me was that I needed to have the confidence and have the strength and actually just kind of share my views and share my ideas. And that really was, for me, kind of the watershed moment of being of truly being a leader and recognizing that that I did have that confidence and the comment was made that its confidence does not go nearly as far for women as it does for men. And I absolutely agree with that. I have a number of colleagues who have stepped up into jobs that they were actually not quite qualified for. I would never dream of taking a job that I was not qualified for. But you have to, right? You have to be willing to have seventy five percent of the confidence and seventy five percent of the know how to actually do the job that you’re willing to take, because almost every man in the world will take a job whether or not they’re qualified for it or not. Just a generalization. I don’t want to be put anybody down in front of the line who would disagree with that. But I think that’s it’s confidence. And being humble and authentic is some key, key points of leadership.
Rick Meese OK, well, thank you for sharing. That sounds like mentorship was it was a big deal for you, but probably the the real turning point, there was the willingness to take a risk. It sounds like that that in your heart of hearts, you know, that you’re capable. But you but you but you’re willing to take or put the doubts that you may have in your mind aside so that you can assume the position in that room or to a position in the company later on or whatever situation that might be, right? Yep. Yeah, yes. And and I know that you qualify your statement saying you didn’t want to make two general statements, but I have read several studies that back up that sort of confidence play that you were talking about there. I find in life, and I don’t have as much life experiences as as many people in the audience, I’m sure, but I find a life that watershed moments are often just the catalyst to something that’s been brewing a long time. So, you look back at them and you say that was the moment. But in reality, like the that the seeds of that moment had been maturing for a long time. So, I guess just I really love the specificity of your example. So just to dove a little bit deeper. What do you feel was happening behind the scenes before that moment that gave you the confidence to take that risk? Because it’s really just a leap in the moment. It’s a journey to you, to the edge, and then you’re willing to jump off.
Vicky Jackson Nielsen So, yeah, I think some of it actually in that particular case was I knew there were a few people who had my back in the room. And so, there were people who had the confidence that let me run a horrendous meeting and have a horrible experience in front of a couple of senior vice presidents. But at the same time, there were people who had my back. And so, once I started talking and rallying everybody behind the idea and what we were going to do, people started to speak up, people who had been quiet, who had been sitting by the sides, who hadn’t really kind of, you know, joined into the conversation, actually started kind of rallying the troops behind behind the ideas of what it was we were going to do. And so, I think forming an alliance, one of the things I’ve learned recently is stakeholder management is incredibly important. If you’re trying to get your point across and you want to do something, you want to take a chance, find some people in the room who can who have your back, find some people who actually can help you in that in any of those difficult times. And that’s another even just a point of leadership. Right. One of the things that if I’m going to suggest something that most of my team is not going to like, I make sure that I’ve got at least a couple of allies in the room, somebody that I’ve already talked to to explain the details and what it is that we’re doing and why we’re doing it that way, so that when things are difficult, people actually can kind of come along for the ride.
Rick Meese So thank you for sharing. And it leads quite nicely onto one of the other questions that we want to discuss today, which was the topic, the topic of Allyship. So, I think we had the importance of cultivating allies in general in life, I imagine, but especially in the in the frame of this discussion. But to invert the question slightly and I’ll ask it sort of from my genuine perspective, because it’s certainly something I’m aware that I could be more sensitive to and understand more. So, I’ll ask you, Janisse, how can leaders in general, but right now be available to be and I’ll become a great ally to women in our organizations in the way that it sounds like you had allies in this particular example, a handover to Janisse to give me an education.
Janisse Quiñones Yeah, so the first thing I would ask you is what is the level of commitment that you’re going to have to allyship? And I say this, and I ask that question because allyship has become a new tagline. The new hip thing is saying, right. But to be an ally requires bravery. It requires activism, and it requires having the humility to understand that you might not know everything and that you need to be educated and continue to get educated on it. So, if your is one hundred percent and you’re willing to take the risk to be an ally or somebody that needs allyship, a couple of things that come to mind is one, especially for us women, sometimes we don’t get we get to talk over.
So, you’ve got to be inclusive. When you see people trying to state an idea or a solution and you see somebody cutting them off, you’ve got to acknowledge that and stop it. And and and then sometimes because I remember my story, it’s very similar to Vicky.
When I was a young engineer, I was sitting at the table and I want to speak because often I was interrupted until I got tired because I knew better. Right. And so, one day I was in a meeting, everybody’s talking and like why don’t we do this? And they all look at me like, why didn’t you talk before? Because you guys don’t stop talking, I said. You’ve got to create the space for people to speak, especially our female STEM employees, because naturally in the sciences we’re introverted, rarely do you a STEM employee that’s extroverted and that’s really ready to jump in. So, we have to create this space. The other thing is the labels we get label like you would not believe. If we are good leaders where we’re label less aggressive, if we are mothers with our label like we’re not committed to the organization, if we don’t have kids, then we’re committed to work and work life balance. So, we’re constantly balancing labels. And Ally should be the first one to stop people and interrupt the labeling of females in the workforce. The other thing is encroachment, like Vicky, stated, most women will not apply to a job unless they’re fully qualified versus the men. So, as an ally, you should be encouraging your female counterparts to apply for the next position to go for the promotion, to go for the next development program to to find mentors and sponsorship. But not only live up to her, help them find those sponsors and mentors that are going to support them in their career that are truly, genuinely invested on the growth of that human being and then give credit and amplify it. So, if a woman comes with a great solution, make sure that people know that who did it and how great that job was, because we don’t, we’re not great at that. Naturally, we don’t like to take credit for the stuff we do because that’s what we do. We solve problems left and right at home and at work in society. So, we we need cheerleaders that are going to do that for us and are going to bring that awareness to others in the audience. And then the last thing is start thinking about flexibility and amplify that across the organization. Right. I have I have a manager that’s working part time for me as the first manager promoted to manager as a part time because she’s managing work and life, but she’s able to do the work that’s a part time manager versus a full-time manager. So, I’m open to the flexibility so I don’t lose the talent and I develop the talent. Eventually the kids will go to school and she might be coming back full time. And the last thing, if you’re in the leading position, you’ve got to set that up. And it’s not allowed to talk about women in a certain way. It’s not allowed not to give them opportunities or the development or I ask for more requirements. And when I talk about requirements, it’s like, oh, we’re going to give you this opportunity for more visibility and then your peers are not doing the same. Right. So, are we asking the same of everybody? And and as a leader, you just have to lead by example.
Rick Meese OK, well, thank you for the education and in and complete transparency, as you spoke about a lot of those coaching tips, I can certainly reflect on my career so far and can be guilty of many of the things that you said that someone shouldn’t do.
So, it is powerful to hear you say it directly to me and gives me a lot of pause for reflection.
So, thank you, Janisse. Kimberlee is there anything else that you would add or sort of comment or any specific stories that you have that sort of tie in to what Janisse had said there about key behaviors and tone and commitment is what I got from Janisse’s points that that that you’d be able to share with the audience.
Kimberlee Centera Yes, and I love what Janisse had to say, I think it was really powerful and certainly has been true for me. I was the first vice president in my company many years ago, and that was because I had great mentors. And and it’s interesting to hear Janisse talk about it because it was really reciprocal. I, I asked which I think so many women don’t do. I, I, I tell the story because I, I give workshops on negotiations and I share how I looked around the room. At one point at my company, we had just closed a huge transaction. I was the only one that wasn’t a vice president. And I thought I just work just as hard as these guys. My contribution was just as critical. Why am I not a vice president? And so, I put together a request and listed my alliance because I had allies. Right. It was a small company, very difficult, and there’s a lot I could go into it, very challenging. And I knew it was going to be a challenge to try to get this promotion. But having those allies was critical, asking was critical and also being willing to support my position. You know, I didn’t just go in and say, hey, I deserve this. You know, I was willing to put together the rationale, the data I was willing to put together. You know, I talk about how important data is when we’re we’re presenting, you know, women, you know, not being emotional, but just being willing to go in and state our own case. And I got the promotion and it really was we talk about these watershed moments. It was really the one of the watershed moments that led to my career. And I think these things are really important building.
And so that reciprocal relationship, having people that are really willing to step in and go to about. The other thing I was going to add is that I think all these things that Janisse are saying are even more critical in this new normal, because we’re now going to be in this environment where we know a lot more people are going to be working virtual. And I share with people that it’s not really a great thing for us in terms of diversity, because we’re already challenged.
Even if we’re sitting at the table, you know, it’s already hard for our voice to be heard. Well, now we’re in this virtual setting where it’s easy to be forgotten about and it’s not going to be an issue just for women. It’s going to be an issue for for all genders when we think about diversity and inclusion and how our organizations are going to change. So, I think there’s going to be even an additional challenge for companies and leadership to navigate, you know, and be inclusive and make sure these voices that might be on the periphery, even if it’s just virtual, are part of the conversation. It’s really going to be something that we’re going to have to really focus on and really develop even more so than we have in the past.
Rick Meese Yeah, I hadn’t even considered the, I guess, the amplifying effect of marginalization in a remote working environment, because I guess it become, the system or the structure makes it easier to to marginalize margin, to further marginalize a group that’s already been marginalized. When you when you’re not interacting every day. So, that that does represent a challenge. So, thank you for thank you for that perspective.
Vicky Jackson Nielsen I was going to say one of the one of the issues we have found as well, and the inclusion front is getting the introverts as was speaking to actually speak up. Right. I mean, actually raise their hand or turn on their video or turn off their video and actually contribute to the conversation. So, we spend a lot of time really kind of focusing on making sure everybody that’s in the room, virtual room, as it were, is contributing because I have a number of people on my team who will not say anything unless you actually ask them a pointed question. And they always have a good response, but they will not speak up unless actually asked a question. So, on the allyship, part I hundred percent agree. It’s extremely important. And one of the organizations we have in my company is we created a women’s network and I volunteered to be on the board simply because I wanted to give back. Right. So, I’ve had some really good mentors and some really good allies throughout my career. And I volunteer just because I felt that everybody else should should get the benefit of those people who have helped me along the way. And I felt like I should help them as well. And Hess is below the average numbers for females in the kind of leadership and management positions, which is pretty common in the especially the upstream oil and gas sector. But I felt it was important to give back to the organization and to give back to those people who are trying to make a difference and who were trying to learn and to grow in the STEM space. Because most of the executives we do have that are female are, as you mentioned, Janisse are in finance or law. They’re not technical professionals. I mean, they’re not engineering professionals.
Rick Meese Thank you, Vicky. And again, you provided a fantastic segway into our final sort of official question.
It’s awesome to hear about your involvement in that program and Hess’s commitment to to nurture that. So, the final question was coming at you, Kimberlee, which was sort of a continuation of that. And it’s what are the main actions that energy companies can take to increase representation and inclusion? So, what what are some of the other actions that you’ve seen being taken and what action should all of our organizations be considering taking?
Kimberlee Centera I think it’s a great question, right, it’s one that everyone is asking, and a lot of what I see is obviously I mentioned starting with leadership and I think there has to be a commitment by leadership. I think it has to be very purposeful. And I think that we need to think differently about how we bring people in. Like I mentioned, the remote idea and how that’s going to pose a challenge for us. A lot of times when we think about how we, you know, increase our numbers, how we bring more people in, and I think we have to go outside of our typical environments. I heard a great talk recently about how most people have a tendency to hire people that are similar to them. And so, you know, I was like, yeah, that makes a lot of sense in some respects. But I think also we need to increase that pool. But it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge. You know, how do you access those different groups? And I think we have to really think outside of the box. We need to you know, there’s a lot of the typical with recruiters and all that, but even that can be limiting. So, I think this is a great opportunity here, having this conversation, making people more aware of it, because we have to definitely extend our reaches out further. We have to go looking for these people in order to bring them into our organization, because for a lot of different reasons, they’re not necessarily standing right there on the edge. So, I think we really have to pursue them. And then I think we have to create this environment where they’re welcome. You know, they’re you know, they’re given opportunities. It has to be. I think it’s interesting how men respond. And again, not to generalize, but, you know, men have a tendency to reach. They have a tendency to go for those positions. And so, it becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak. But I think it really has to be purposeful. We have to really bring in these people and make sure that they’re involved and make sure that they’re given opportunities. They have a seat at the table. I personally think it’s something that’s going to take some time. I don’t think it’s going to happen very quickly.
One of the things that I’m doing is working with a mastermind group of women to be able to create some real parameters around what this looks like, because I have, I talked to a lot of companies and renewables and they’re not really sure, you know, I mean, I think in some cases men aren’t even really sure or people who want to mentor, men aren’t sure about what what what’s comfortable. You know, can I take a woman out for coffee, you know, or can we meet? You know, there’s a lot of things where people are not clear on what the protocol should be. And so, I think part of our job, at least as women are concerned, is what are our issues, you know, child care. We’re going to be working from home, again, it’s it’s not the cure all. It creates certain issues. So, I think it’s a dialog that has to happen. I think there’s a lot of pieces to it. I don’t think there’s like a, you know, a silver bullet where you can just say, OK, we’re going to do this one thing and that’s going to change it. So, it’s going to be a challenge. But but I think if you’ve got great people like we have on this panel that are thinking about yourself, you know, I think the awesome thing, Rick, is that, you know, you’re willing to have the conversation and hear. And I think that’s the most critical first step, having the conversation and being receptive to the dialog and what needs to change.
Rick Meese Well, I appreciate that.
And yeah, and it’s hard to hear about your own flaws and where you may have not included people and and just be honest and consider your behaviors over your life. Right. So, but it is it is a feedback. It’s a blessing. And being educated through this this process is I agree is part of that. So, thank you for thank you for your comments. I was sent an article by a team member yesterday before this event that talked about changing language and job postings to be more gender neutral and then giving more options for flexibility in senior leadership positions. And the is a large financial services company that did it. And they saw, you know, a huge increase in women applying for senior positions because one of the issues that they were finding is that it’s hard for them to develop diversity in the first place because of the number of applicants. So that was one of the tactics that they employed to at least begin the pipeline. Right. You have to start with the with the pipeline so that you can, as you said, evolve your organization over time. Is that a tactic? I think, Janisse had mentioned it before, but is that something that you’ve seen operate in in your organizations? Are all your human resources departments considering this type of those type of tactics to at least begin increasing numbers and diversity?
Janisse Quiñones Yeah, definitely. We we are looking at that. We’re training our hiring managers on that specifically just to eliminate the bias that comes inherently from from the way that the job posting is drafted, if you will. I do think, though, that we’ve got to stop measuring progress in the absolute I think we’re overcorrecting instead of just creating a progression of improvements. To Kimberlee’s point, we we’re struggling with the technical fields. Right. Engineering in general, it’s not graduating. Especially, the, I’m a mechanical, electrical mechanical civil engineering, it’s losing engineering students do the computer science and the more application base, the fun stuff, that’s coming up now. So just on the pool of engineering, it’s reducing. And then you highlight the fact that we have less female engineering students coming out of schools. So, the talent is limited for all industries. So, and then the energy industry, you have to fight with other more sexy, if you will, industries for the same talent. So how do you how do you become more creative on attraction of the talent and then closing the deal? Because we’re seeing a lot of good diverse talent coming to the organization. But then do we actually convert them to a job and why not? So that’s that’s the studies that we’re conducting is where is it falling off and why is the pipeline not completing, at the end of the day. If we see enough of the students have the conversion rate. And so, there’s a lot of biases on the interview process. Do we have diverse interview panels? Are we talking about the other diversity aspects that it’s not just the numbers. How do we really bring in some more flexibility versus what we used to do and where we want to go? So that ties back to the value system, how we’re changing that value system. And are we providing our candidates a check on their own personal values? Because that’s the ultimate the new generation of millennials and centennials, they really want to make a difference. They want to work where it matters and that that what used to attract and retain talent and my generation is not what’s happening and the new generation. And we need to adapt to that.
Rick Meese And when you said you said something that we might be overcorrecting, what did you mean by that?
Janisse Quiñones So we are trying to now we realize that there’s no diversity. Now we go one hundred percent trying to measure our success, did we meet all our goals. But like everybody in this mental saying, it’s just going to take a long time to get there. Right. And it’s little by little. So, if we if we improve by 10 percent every year, we were better than last year versus trying to measure us on a hundred percent improvement. Now we’re equally there’s no equality anywhere in the workforce right now. There’s very few industries where the amount of women and men is the same and there’s equality. So how do we keep moving and get the momento where we need to do?
Rick Meese OK, cool, thank you. I’d like to turn over to a couple of the pre submitted questions. In particular, there was an interesting one that caught all of our eyes, and it was submitted by hopefully one of the audience members that is attending today. And I said I just saw a photo of a youth stem activity in our school district with seven males and one female. What can we do individually to build a more robust STEM pipeline among children from the start? So, I think we’re taking this discussion to the origin and we’re going all the way back. We were talking about job applicants. Now we’re talking about a school. I know none of us are necessarily educational experts, potentially. I don’t know. I’m not. But I’d be interested to hear anyone. I’d like to tackle that question about how do we how do we maybe address the pipeline from its origin?
Vicky Jackson Nielsen I’ll take a first step of that. So, one of the one of the things that I always find frustrating is when I hear people say, oh, I’m not good at math, OK, one of my kids says I’m not good at math. That’s not a good answer. Right. Everybody can be good at math. Everybody can be good at science. It’s really fostering even from a really early age, those things that people find interesting. The worst thing you can say is I’m not good at math and therefore I’m going to go to English instead. Really try to encourage kids at that at that really youngest age to understand why they don’t like math or why they don’t like science, and is it is it the teacher that they have that they don’t like? What fundamentally is the reason that some people just don’t want to go into the STEM sciences? I mean, interestingly, if you look at kids coming out of college, people coming out of college, the STEM degrees, they actually those people usually find jobs. Right. The rest of the industry and the rest of the world is really kind of hard pressed right now to find positions for people coming out of college with business degrees. And some of the other kind of more generic degrees in the STEM degrees are people are getting jobs coming out of those positions.
So, the question is, how do we even in elementary school level? And some of it goes back fundamentally to things like being talked over. When we talk about, we were talking about sitting in a conference room and somebody talking and everybody else just keeps talking over the top of you, and Janisse was making an example of it. But it happens even into the in the first and second grade ages where little kids talk over the top of somebody else. The person with the loudest voice in the room is the one who wins. And so, it’s it’s really starting from the earliest ages and encouraging people and encouraging kids to follow their passion. And if they don’t, if math isn’t their passion, ask them why? What is it about it or what is it about science that you don’t like? Because all all kids are inquisitive. Right? And I mean, science and math are kind of the end result of being inquisitive your entire life. And so, I think it goes back to encouraging kids, all of us on the phone who have kids encouraging your kids to to be inquisitive and to answer them, ask those questions. And fundamentally, I mean, we always ask this question, how do you get more people understand it’s really difficult.
I mean, it’s a challenge. But I think it starts really, really early on in kind of an elementary school time frame.
Rick Meese I can distinctly remember saying I don’t like math. So, you have not over Keeva. Yeah, that is it does speak to the problem. Any other comments on that from any of the other panelists?
Janisse Quiñones Yeah, I’ll add that. You know, what I think the questions asking is the lack of representation of female on the STEM programs at school and and that’s happening everywhere. So, the more females we get them on the workforce, the more we need to make sure that we engage with them to participate in this program. Because I’ve yet to meet one that says I don’t want to help, I don’t want to help that cause. But if we’re putting systems in place to actually bring the talent to talk to the kids, we got to be very intentional about who we’re inviting to those conversations. Right. Just don’t don’t go on the road. Go find the talent that might not know that you have this same event and that can come and contribute to that conversation and have some diversity on the panel. But it’s it’s it’s really an effect of the lack of representation on the STEM fields. And so, for all of us, this is something that we do because we love it and it’s the right thing to do. But we can do it if we don’t not. Right. So that’s that’s one of the things that I would recommend is just make sure that you’re very intentional who you’re bringing to the panel.
Rick Meese All right. Thank you. We have a question submitted from an anonymous attendee, and it does revert back to one of the discussions that we had earlier. The question is, what practical techniques can you suggest that we use to sensitively but forcefully encourage our counterparts to stop labeling and start encouraging? So, I think, Janisse, you gave your perspective to me in that case of how I might try and prevent that. But let’s say I slip up and I do do that.
How maybe could a woman in my organization, you know, prevent me from doing that in the future or let me do that in a sensitive but forceful manner?
That sounds like what the question is.
Janisse Quiñones I mean, there’s a hundred different ways you can do this. So, you can go in directly and indirectly, directly. So outside of the meeting, have a conversation with the person and say, hey, that that that comment was not received well by me. And this is the reason why you can be funny about it and be like were you joking because I didn’t get the joke. Can you tell me what the joke was, or you can say just forcefully and say, I didn’t appreciate that. That’s not fair. I think that goes with your level of confidence. And I will tell you, when I was younger, I was probably less confident in, say, stuff like that. Now I just put up with it. So, if somebody says something I don’t like, I’ll just address that immediately, because it’s not just about me. It’s about the other woman that I come in right behind me and I have to make sure that I create an environment where people understand what’s acceptable and not acceptable. But if you don’t speak up. It might not be intentional, and the moment you pointed out it changes that perspective for that person forever, and that means that everybody that interacts with that human being will have a completely different interaction. And I think that’s that’s a great thing to do. So, you’re got to see it from the positive, not the negative. And I think it’s hard because then you’re labeled as, oh, she’s she’s not she doesn’t take jokes or she’s too aggressive, which is so direct. But it’s we have a duty to to the women that are coming up through the ranks to set the stage for them to be successful. So, you got to you got to find the strength to do what’s right.
Vicky Jackson Nielsen I also think it’s important to not just for the other women coming up, but to everybody in the meeting room to or wherever you are to realize that it’s not OK. Right. Taking taking somebody aside after the meeting, I have found is not nearly as effective as saying something. I often joke about it. That’s kind of my my demeanor. But, yeah, it’s important that everybody else in the room also knows that that’s not acceptable. Right. Or that you’re not not pleased with the comment. And I like how you use the term aggressive. A couple of times I’ve been called many things aggressive is not usually that’s usually the polite way that people say it.
So that was a good question, though. I appreciate it.
Kimberlee Centera I think, Rick, if I can add one one thing, because I think I totally agree with what Vicky and Janisse are saying. Although I will say that there’s times when that could be very difficult. If you’re a junior engineer or your new and the person who made the comment is, is a senior executive or a vice president. I mean, this happens, right? It can be very difficult to confront that person and say, hey, what you said wasn’t acceptable. Right. So, I think that, you know, I think you have I think as women, we have to also be smart and be strategic and think because there we talked about alliances. Right. And there might be cases where it might not be the best thing to go, and even approaching someone else outside the meeting. You may want to talk to someone else. You may want to get some help. You might even want to enlist, enlist, you know, that alliance that might be or that could be helpful, because there’s times, you know, it really depends on our role and where we are, where we are in a career, you know, how long we’ve been a company, if we’re fairly new, you know? So, I think it’s also really important to kind of be strategic, have that broader perspective. And when I talk to to women a lot, which I do, I coach and, you know, I speak and we talk about this idea of, you know, building that, finding someone within the company that can help you navigate the politics because there are politics. You know, I talk to women and we go out and we create our own companies, and we think like a wave, a magic wand we’re not going to have to deal with all the B.S. anymore. And it’s like, oh, no, it’s still there. It just looks different. You just have your own company. You just still have to deal with it. Believe me, I still to deal with at my age. So, it’s not like you wave a magic wand and it puts my client or my client’s attorneys or something, which I had happen to make a very young attorney make a wholly inappropriate, inappropriate comment on a very large call. But was I on this call going to call out this person and say, gee, you really out of line? But it would have been a bad idea. So, I do think we have to be strategic, and because unfortunately or fortunately for us, you know, we have to think about the best approach.
Rick Meese Well, thank you for your pragmatism.
So there’s one final question to round it off, and hopefully you’ll answer quite a few of the submitted questions, but just in sort in brief terms, if you if each of the panelists could go back in time and to give advice to their younger selves when they were starting their career, what would you say to yourself?
And we’ll start with you, Kimberlee.
Kimberlee Centera You know, I think it’s such a good question, I think what I would say is don’t be afraid to not have all the answers. When I started my business, I got laid off and it was, you know, it was not I was 50 and I that was not on my radar screen to start my own business. And but I did. And and I started and made a lot of mistakes I’ve learned as I’ve gone.
And so I would really say, you know, sometimes as women, you know, we’ve got to have that 100 percent, you know, we’re not willing to take the chance. So, don’t be afraid to not have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to take the leap. And I think even Vicky mentioned this and and Janisse to a certain degree. But just take the leap, you know that you’ll figure out the steps. We can do it. Just don’t be afraid to not have all the answers.
Rick Meese Thank you, Kimberlee. Vicky.
Vicky Jackson Nielsen I think one of mine is don’t be rash and follow the shiny penny. Early on in my career, I change jobs about four years in and on a long-term career basis, it probably wasn’t the right decision. I actually stayed at that company for about a year before I moved on to something else and I really literally followed the shiny penny. It wasn’t more money. It was the title and what the job sounded like in the interesting piece about it. But it didn’t turn out to be that. And so be very thoughtful, especially early on in your career about the decisions you’re going to make and how that might affect other things, other things moving forward.
Rick Meese Thank you, Vicky. And finally, Janisse.
Janisse Quiñones You know, I think from a strategic standpoint, what Kimberlee was saying was critical, you know, we play chess all the time just to to get to where we want to go. Right. It’s some natural tendency of females and in any business. Right. So, my advice would be understand the complexities of people and the importance of relationships, the good, the bad and the really ugly ones. It’s the only way that you’re going to be successful in the chess game and and that you’re going to manage your career appropriately.
Rick Meese OK, thank you. Well, with those wise words ringing in our ears, I’d like to thank each of the panelists for your contribution and in many cases, your education for me, so thank you. All the attendees for registering and participating in today’s events. There’s a lot of questions that have been submitted that haven’t been answered. So, we will have a look through those after the event and try and respond. When I close the session, you’ll be prompted to complete a brief survey. So, if you can please take a couple of minutes to let us know how we’ve done or how we might improve. And thank you for attending. And if there’s any other follow up questions or further information, please visit the event web page or the registration page and reach out to us at Progressive. So, thank you very much, everyone, and thanks again to the panelists for a great discussion. I really enjoyed it. And Hope. Just have to see each of you soon, actually.