Although we lament the dearth of women working in leadership positions in the transmission and distribution fields, the attendees of the Power Women networking breakfast at DistribuTECH 2019 were able to gain inspiration and insight from several strong women who are proven leaders.
During this breakfast, held Wednesday morning, Vera Silva, chief technology officer with GE Grid Solutions; Shay Bahramirad, director of smart grid and technology with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd); and JoJo Hubbard, chief operating officer with Electron answered a series of questions about their experiences as women in traditionally male-dominated fields.
The conversation was fascinating and insightful, speaking to challenges faced and overcome, as well as what’s needed in the future.
Silva discussed how she was the first female senior manager at GE, and many expressed surprise that this milestone was achieved by someone on the “technical” side of the company. She said women have to have “twice the legitimacy” as men to be talking about technology.
Hubbard talked about her experience doing fundraising for her company and, during meetings, all the questions were directed to the man on her team. She said only 2.7% of available venture capital goes into female-founded companies.
Bahramirad talked about how in the past there may not have been a lot of women at the table at technical conferences, and the ones there were taking notes but not raising their hands.
On the subject of recruiting and diversity, all discussed the need to continue bringing women in and recognizing them and encouraging them to grow and seek opportunities. Bahramirad helped found the IEEE women in power group, and Silva mentioned a women’s network within GE that provides support. Hubbard discussed the importance of providing diversity in career opportunities, to give women exciting, compelling choices from the bottom up of a company.
There was a lively round of questions from the audience, covering topics such as the lack of women available to hire in many engineering disciplines and why that might be happening, and how women working in these industries can find and/or be given opportunities for advancement.
The bottom line: Women can and do succeed in leadership positions in transmission and distribution industries, but they need to have the confidence to bring themselves forward. Or, as Silva said, “reinvent leadership in the feminine perspective.”