Like most industries, the energy sector has been a historically male-dominated field. Even today, the majority of leadership roles are occupied by men. Besides the obvious inequality this gender gap creates, the male-centric leadership structure is actually a detriment to the energy industry at large. In the face of complex struggles that climate change creates, meaningful solutions can only be developed through the creative vision of many diverse voices.
On this edition of the Siemens Energy Podcast, Linette Casey, Director of Power Systems Development at Siemens Energy, joins the podcast to discuss her personal experience as a woman in the energy business. She also expands upon the growing support from voices outside the industry for greater social and environmental responsibility. For Linette, commitment to diversity and inclusion not only promotes greater social equity but also makes for a more successful business.
A Unique and Challenging Experience
Linette has worked in the energy business for the last 20 years. The majority of that time saw little in the way of diversity. For most of her career, she often found herself as the only woman in the room. This was unfortunately of little surprise, as her work within energy was specific to the field of sales: a male-dominated segment of a male-dominated industry.
Being the only woman present was not a new experience for Linette. Growing up with two older brothers, she often found herself tagging along as a part of various stereotypically boyish activities. As she tells it, she was a boy scout before she was a girl scout. This environment followed her to school at the Maine Maritime Academy, where women made up less than a tenth of the total student body. After graduation, Linette began working in logistics with Navy SEALs, yet again being the only woman involved in her work. Even when she began work in sales for Siemens Energy, the overwhelming majority of her colleagues were men.
It is only within the last several years that intentional initiatives within Siemens Energy have promoted a more diverse workforce. Given Linette’s experience and background, the transformation of her industry into a more inclusive environment is an endeavor she feels passionately committed to.
"I'm not here to fit in. I'm here because people value my opinion and I'm part of the solution."Linette Casey, Director of Power Systems Development at Siemens Energy
Investing in Inclusion
Having become so familiar with the isolating feeling of being the sole woman in her field, Linette has always been intentional about building connections with other women. When she came to Boston to begin her work at Siemens Energy, she again tried to become connected to a network of professional women. However, she found that such a network in that area did not exist. So, along with other women committed to the same effort, Linette founded the Women’s Energy Network in Boston. This organization rapidly grew, and now includes 100 members representing 35 different energy companies, including Siemens Energy.
In the quest to create a more inclusive workforce, Linette and the Women’s Energy Network seek to open opportunities to women early in their education and career. They partner with local colleges to mentor female students and help teach classes in such a way that promotes equal partnership between men and women. A partnership at Northeastern University allowed Linette and her team to give aspiring women leaders real-world experience through a project that mirrored the challenges facing the energy sector today.
Linette’s efforts are not only targeted at women in college who already know they want a career in energy. To even enter college and pursue the energy industry is an accomplishment for many women, since the lack of inclusion and opportunity starts years before college. The lack of women in STEM fields begins at the elementary school level, where young girls are often not taught there are opportunities for them to be successful in STEM careers later in their lives.
As an early-intervention effort, the Women’s Energy Network launched a children’s book targeted at fourth and fifth-graders. At that age, children are just beginning to learn higher-level math and science, and it’s a prime opportunity to introduce educational materials that promote female role models in STEM fields. By investing in women’s education from elementary school through college, Linette and female colleagues hope to train up a generation of ambitious women ready to take ownership of leadership positions within organizations like Siemens Energy.
Mirroring a Broader Cultural Shift
Thankfully, Linette is not the only one concerned about producing gender equity in business. The professional world is undergoing a cultural shift that places a greater emphasis on ESG concerns. To be successful, many organizations must show their customers and clients that they are being socially and environmentally responsible, not just profitable.
The approach to this responsibility is not universal, however, and what an organization focuses on will vary depending on its geographical location and customer base. In Europe, for example, the greatest emphasis is placed on sustainability and carbon-neutrality in business practices. Many climate summits are held in Europe, and European nations have largely led the push for changes in the global energy economy, so it’s no surprise that climate-friendly practices are at the forefront of European citizens’ minds.
By contrast, American industries have placed a greater emphasis on social responsibility. Much of the political and social commentary in America revolves around attempts to create a more equitable and inclusive society, and diversity efforts in business are a part of that cultural focus. Buying American-made products that incorporate diversity in the supply chain is of chief concern even to the American government.
While much work still needs to be done, the work of Linette and her colleagues is engaging a broader cultural conversation that is beginning to chip away at the unequal power dynamics that so many businesses have held in the past.
In order to achieve true equity, the efforts that Linette began must continue in future generations. To this end, she encourages aspiring women leaders to mirror her own confidence and boldness in the workplace. Linette never shied away from being the only woman in the room, and was unashamedly herself and confidently asserted her ideas in an environment where women are often encouraged to be silent. In addition, she sought allies in other women in her industry and was herself an ally to them. This network of support allowed many women to create opportunities for themselves that may otherwise never have come.
In order to be successful, the energy industry needs the unique creativity that women in leadership bring. This is the attitude that Linette wants to impart to the next generation of women in energy. Seek allies, be an ally, and never stop being yourself.
"Be yourself, because we all have a role to play."Linette Casey