Powering equality: Women in energy

Powering equality: Women in energy

Despite making up 60 per cent of Canada’s workforce, women are underrepresented in the energy sector. It’s a challenge energy companies and providers are facing across the country. As we work to tackle climate solutions, transition to cleaner sources of energy and transform our electrical system, we need diverse perspectives in our boardrooms, our plants and in the field. We need more women in energy.

It’s why we’ve launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) strategy. This plan sets targets and identifies strategies to attract and retain people, to connect with diverse communities and to continue to build awareness of the value of diverse teams.

This International Women’s Day, we spoke with four women from across our business about some of the challenges, barriers and opportunities for women in energy.

Breaking biases

 “There is so much opportunity for women in technology,” says Shirley Tanner, Technical Support Manager. “It’s a challenging field and ever evolving, especially in energy. And as we reduce our carbon footprint, we need green technology to distribute energy. From solar gardens, to wind farms, IT is at the center of all of it. We need more women at the table.”

Like many fields in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the IT industry is working to close the gender gap. It’s something Shirley believes needs to change from the ground up.

“From my experience, and even seeing the experience of my daughter, from a young age, women can be steered away from roles that are technical in nature.”

For Julie Wambolt, a Power Engineer, although there is still gender inequality in many of the trades, she emphasizes that in her role—making electricity at our Tufts Cove Generating Station—there are unique benefits she believes would be appealing for women desiring a rewarding career and great work-life balance.

“I’m a mom, and I have three children. There can be biases around shift work, but for me, it has enabled me to be home with my kids more than I was at work. Our schedule is that we work two days and two nights in the power plant, then we’re off for six days. I was able to be very present in my family life, and that’s worked well for me.”

Changing the culture

As someone just starting out in her career, Yagmur Var, an Industrial Engineering Student taking part in our co-op program, brings a different perspective.

“We need more women in STEM, and I think we’re seeing positive growth. In my engineering class about 30 per cent are women,” she says. “Although there are more women entering into engineering than in the past, it can still be intimidating to start a role in a male dominated field. This industry is complex and, as women, we can feel like when we start a job, we need to know everything.”

Early on in my career, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to prove myself,” agrees Julie. “I’m happy to see the culture of trades changing. The women that came before me have been a part of that. And I hope to drive positive change, too. Here at Nova Scotia Power, we started a group to bring together all the women working in trades and technology across the province. There are challenges that you can only understand if you’re a woman in the trades, and having the network helps us drive real change, support one another and ensure that women have everything they need to do their jobs.”

Ann Wilson, Contract Management Analyst, also believes in the power of supporting other women and in being a mentor. “You’ve got to fight for the women that are coming after you,” she says. “I’m a woman, and I'm also a Black woman. That’s an added layer when you’re entering into spaces that have been historically white and male. It’s why I think representation is so important. We need to highlight women in these underrepresented roles. Women need to see themselves.”

For Shirley, shining a light of some of the challenges is an important step as well.

“As women we feel like we need to be much better, much stronger, better prepared especially in male dominated roles,” she says. “There is a statistic that when women apply for a job, they make sure they check every box on the application. Where men are more likely to apply when they check five out of ten boxes. It’s how we’re socialized. Talking about it and raising awareness is a big part of the solution. We need to have confidence and reach for what we’re capable of.”

The path forward

Our workplaces are stronger when we have diverse perspectives at the table. And women have a unique and valuable viewpoint to offer.

“Having only one point of view is a barrier to success and innovation,” says Shirley. “Diversity is the only path forward, and it’s something we’re prioritizing at Nova Scotia Power. Women bring empathy to decision making, and that’s a strength. It’s crucial for a happy, stable workforce where everyone feels respected and understood.”

“Our views are different, our life experiences are different, and we approach challenges differently,” says Ann.” Women are natural problem solvers because we’ve had to learn to adapt and do things differently. That’s very valuable.”

Looking forward, Shirley acknowledges that although there’s no one silver bullet to close the gender gap, progress is being made. And with the right steps, we can make a difference.   

“It’s starts internally,” she explains. “Every company should have a DE&I strategy. Promote more women and make them more visible in the decision-making process at every level of the company. Get involved in the community and look at curriculums. Have transparency and demonstrate pay equity. These are critical steps that support women.”

Supporting the next generation

“If I could tell women that are thinking about a career in trades one thing, it would be to be confident and speak your mind,” says Julie.

It’s the same advice Shirley has for young women like her daughter.

“The best advice is don’t ever be made to feel that you can’t do something,” she says. “Only you know what you’re capable of doing. Be your own counsel and believe in yourself.”

And as a young woman just getting started in her career, Yagmur is excited for the future.

“There is so much room for growth for women. Now is our time. I encourage any woman that’s considering a career in energy to take the step and explore the opportunities!”

At Nova Scotia Power, we value and promote diversity, equity and inclusion. For more information about our culture and careers at Nova Scotia Power, please visit nspower.ca/careers.

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