Executive Vice President and President, U.S., The AES Corporation
“Women have to really leverage their network. And so they have those relationships, expand their network, leverage that information and keep those connections. Because I think especially as you move and grow in your careers, it’s really important to be able to all be candid, whether it’s male or female, pick up the phone, interact and keep that network alive.”
In your opinion, what qualities make a power woman?
I think the qualities that make a power woman are first commitment, drive, and empathy.
Do you believe that there are any gender specific roles for women to play in the COVID-19 pandemic? Obviously, we’ve got to mention the pandemic because it’s still relevant and still present. And do you believe that the response to COVID-19 pandemic highlights and emphasizes the natural resilience women actually have?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for all of us. One of the things that all of us need to focus on is the underlying science and active learning throughout this process. We’ve all learned that there’s new information that changes over time. We have to be open to learning. I think women are particularly adaptive and resilient to thinking that as new information comes in, our actions have to change to best address things like the pandemic. I also think that part of what we, as women leaders, do. We are naturally empathetic to people in different situations and make sure that we’re actively communicating the information we have. We care about our whole community and how we can best keep everyone safe at work, at home, and in their lives.
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance the effort in pursuit of gender equality? Do you feel it should be a global approach or specific to something you are passionate about?
I think in terms of gender equality and just equality in general, I love the AES view of thinking both globally and locally, and the reason I like that is because I think you do have to think globally about where in the world, for instance, a company is operating and what that means for equality. But I think it’s very important to take into account local context, local context in terms of the local community, that’s their perspectives, how you provide education to different groups in the community to make sure they have opportunities. And I think for women, it’s especially important that you think about helping expand their view on what those opportunities are again. Depending on what the local situation is.
I think I like how you’re absolutely. Because I think by helping everybody by helping the lowest economic positioning that anybody might have literally raises the bar for everybody involved from bottom up, right.
Do you feel that there’s a short story of where you might have encountered any kind of block due to your gender in your life?
Well, I often tell a story that I found interesting in terms of gender. And when I first graduated from college, my very first interview at University was local. You went to the local office, and I was sitting there looking at the information on the company that I was going to interview with, and a gentleman came out of the room and he asked me where the information on his company was, and I showed him and he obviously assumed I was the assistant that worked there. And then he came out to call my name and was very surprised that I was the engineering student he was supposed to interview. And so I think I have many stories like that where people assume in a very male dominated environment that when they walk into the room that the only woman in the room might not be their counterpart or their peer, but might be an administrative function. And I think that’s why it’s so important for women to be gracious in those situations, but also to use their voice and make sure that people understand what their role is and why they’re there and what they can contribute.
There are many studies that support the idea that female presence in the boardroom increases the bottom line and leads to a healthier work environment. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions, in your opinion?
Well, I think first we’ve made tremendous progress in getting women in the boardroom, and I’m very, very happy to work for a company who has so many women on our board because they are excellent role models, and they also ask those interesting questions. I think we have to continue to work to have women in all facets of the workforce and make sure that we have women coming in, enroll in supporting them all the way up the career chain, and that helps have a greater population ready for the boardroom.
I also think we have to make sure that women think about and are open to roles that include P&L or business line responsibility that they’ve made and able to make moves within a company, to have different facets of responsibility, because that helps them have a broader perspective and be ready to take on that role in the boardroom of really helping set strategy and drive the outcomes for a business.
But I think women also in terms of the male network, women also have to really leverage their network. And so they have those relationships, expand their network, leverage that information and keep those connections. Because I think especially as you move and grow in your careers, it’s really important to be able to all be candid, whether it’s male or female, pick up the phone, interact and keep that network alive, because then your name comes up in those conversations about the next opportunity or about joining a board. Mind for people when they’re thinking about other opportunities that could help advance your career.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? And could you share what that was?
At one point in my career, I thought of myself as an environmental professional. So, I worked in the environmental area. I was passionate about the environmental area, and I had the opportunity to take a broader business role in the same company. But for me, it was defining because it was choosing a much broader career path than what I ever had envisioned for myself. So I thought, you know, my career was going to be straight and go up to a VP of environmental health and safety. And this opportunity led me in a different path to a much broader role with much different business functionality.
Again, I often say, when people think about their career, the path is not straight because it’s those things that broaden our experience that really help make you a great leader and better business person is to have multifunctional experience across a wide range of activities.
Could you share with us one of the best pieces of advice that you’ve ever been given, what would it be?
I’ve been given so many pieces of advice, but I think the most disarming for me was really understanding you can do anything you want to.
Do everything. To go on and get an engineering degree to go on and do things. But you also realize that you can’t do everything. And it’s that trade off of learning how to, how to balance and learning how to set priorities and boundaries. That’s really important.
If you could have somebody else’s job for a day, who would it be and why?
Wow. I think right now, if I could have someone else’s job for a day, I would have Andrea Spluski, who’s our as CEO, and I would have his job because I’m used to seeing the US and our operations, and I like to step into seeing the global view and all the other challenges that he faces in his role every day.
What do you value most in friends?
What I value most in friends is that they’re always there for you. They’re non-judgmental, and they’ll just listen and not try to solve a problem, but be there to support you.
What’s the trait you most are uncomfortable with within yourself?
The trait I’m most uncomfortable with? Well. Honestly, it’s doing things like this. It’s. Uncomfortable with. Being a self promoter. I’m not a self promoter. I’m uncomfortable in that role. Which is so. And it’s one of the things that men do the best. You know, that. Some men, some women. But it’s just not a role that I’ve ever really focused on building a team, achieving results. And I think it’s always the team’s accomplishments that are really important or the company’s accomplishments and the role that everyone contributes to that it’s not just the leader, right?