The Women in Energy series is a joint project between USEA and USAID that was developed out of USEA’s Engendering Utilities Partnership, a program funded by USAID to improve gender policies and gender outcomes at their respective organizations.
Every month we feature a woman who has shown exemplary leadership. We want to showcase her story. These women come from diverse backgrounds and roles, and they bring with them a unique perspective to gender equality within the energy sector.
Women in Energy Interview Questions
- How have your education and career path led you to where you are now?
I started my career in the energy field in 2006 after the acquisition of the Macedonian Electricity Distribution and Supply Company by EVN Austria. My first position was Assistant to the Management Board in a period during which my organization had to overcome challenges, and I had first-hand experience in observing the complexities leaders are navigating through on a daily basis. I had an interesting path to the present position as Head of Human Resources from Head of Internal Audit and National Compliance Officer for Macedonia. The current position changed my focus from risks, policies and processes, which build the framework of the organization, to the people who give the organizations content and meaning.
I believe that lateral career moves in an organization boost the culture of collaboration, understanding and inclusion; it’s part of leadership development in my view. Another pillar of leadership development is internal motivation and drive. That is how much are we willing to invest from our own time in developing ourselves and others in the organization. Today it seems like we have unlimited access to knowledge. For the curious and continuous learners like myself, I believe that everything is possible and within reach.
- Over the course of your career, have you witnessed changes in the sector that have launched more women into leadership positions?
I have witnessed in the course of my career why women and diversity are important. Gender imbalance is often a result of lack of top-level support, or not having enough talented women, but sometimes it’s unconscious, hidden and more subtle biases in the workplace. Studies show that women get less credit for teamwork, and they are promoted based on past accomplishments while their male colleagues promotions are based on their future potential. Through my organization’s participation in the management bodies of the Employers Organization in Macedonia, we are planning several projects and activities which will increase the awareness of the status quo, as well as the benefits and outcomes from engendering women in the energy sector.
- Technology is transforming the traditional utility business model into a more modern interactive grid. Some utilities see the transformation as an opportunity to morph their teams as well because of a correlation between an increase in diversity and an increase in quality, and innovation. What, if anything is your organization doing to attract, retain, and promote more women into senior management positions to respond to the dramatic industry transformation?
I am very satisfied that through our 2016 trainee graduate program 40 percent of the engineering positions were filled by female applicants. In the past two years we started programs and activities which enable greater flexibility in the workplace, while battling discrimination on a subtle level through, for instance, training of the whole management staff in 2016 about company's commitment to equality in the workplace. In June 2016, we organized the inaugural Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, supported by USAID’s Engendering Utilities Partnership. Our goal was to encourage the girls to think imaginatively and without prejudice about their family, work and community lives, and about their own future and profession, perhaps in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
With the expert support provided within the framework of the USAID’s Engendering Utilities Partnership program, and the workshops enabled and organized by USEA, we are reviewing the policies and procedures stretching through the entire employee lifecycle, from recruitment and selection, to training, to pay equity and leadership opportunities for women, while simultaneously improving their work quality to ensure better outcomes. Research and theory are providing the basis for our activities, but the exchange that happens during USEA Workshops lead by prominent experts in the energy sector is catalysing the initiated processes in the seven utilities that are part of the program. We all know that in engendering women in energy is of utmost importance, but the gender gap is not being closed with satisfactory speed worldwide.
In 2017 we plan to focus on increasing the awareness among female students about their career prospects in the energy sector and on the topic of retention and development of female talent.
- Are talented women within your organization making it to top leadership positions? Why/why not?
Yes. Women have a different approach to leadership. Typically, they create a culture that promotes and supports diversity and inclusion that is reflected in the day-to-day activities in the company. They tackle management challenges in a way that leads to more comprehensive sets of options for solving problems a more collaborative culture.
Is there room for more talented women in leadership? Always. We need to position female role models and inspirational women as mentors to the aspiring candidates.
- Companies that embrace diversity outperform their competitors. What type of diversity programs does your organization have in place to mentor future women leaders? How does your organization measure and report gender diversity? Is the data publicly available?
We started by capturing detailed gender data and respective analytics in 2015 when we joined the Engendering Utilities Partnership. The data is not publicly available. At the moment we are building the mentoring and development program for future women leaders, and we expect the first results by the end of the year.
- What actions should the energy and electricity sector be focused on to accelerate change, increase diversity, and foster a better gender balance in the boardroom?
In my view, equality is a basic human right. To have equality, we need equal opportunities.
Policies, regulations and measures on the government level are being adopted worldwide to improve gender balance and female empowerment, but efforts need to be coupled with measuring the outcomes. Quotas and technology have been effective drivers for gender diversity and the UN, World Bank, USAID and USEA, through the pioneering project and programs, work on the practical aspects of the gender agenda. Regional conferences or forums are needed to expand the existing initiatives and build on new programs which will accelerate the time needed to achieve greater gender balance and inclusion. Gender equality is not rhetoric. Gender balance has positive impact on teams, productivity, innovation, decision making, customer service, sales revenue, market growth, the bottom line and shareholder returns. Conversations about business ethics has sparked lively debate about female/male ethics in the boardroom and management decision making. This supports the business case for having more female energy executives, which would ultimately lead to greater economic value to utilities and their stakeholders.