Why did you feel it was important for National Grid to sign the 100% Talent Compact?
First and foremost, it is just the right thing to do. From a business perspective, signing the Compact is evidence of our commitment to having the right people in the right roles. We are working towards making our employee base reflect our customer base, and part of that is getting more women in all levels of the company. Recently I was at our Millbury facility speaking to about 30 new graduates who would be joining the company, and about half were female, a third were people of color, and the rest were white males, and I had to smile, because almost 30 years ago when I joined the company, that wouldn’t have been the case.
You worked at National Grid for over 20 years, serving in many different capacities, before becoming President. Could you describe what it was like for to move up through the company as a woman? Did you find your experiences differed from men around you?
Having been with National Grid for 29 years, I can honestly say I didn’t think much about being a woman in this field until others pointed it out to me. I believe I saw the most difference between my career and my male colleagues’ careers when I became a mother. While I do notice now that more young fathers are sharing household duties, 20 years ago, things were different, and in a traditional household like mine, I had a lot of responsibilities that male colleagues didn’t.
Has diversity played a role in the success of National Grid?
Yes! In 1988 when I came to the company we were a very simple wires company that provided electricity to our customers and that’s it. We didn’t even call them customers, we called them “rate-payers”. When you diversify your workforce, people think differently about the product we offer, how we interact with the customers, and it has a huge impact on the company. When you read about diverse teams creating better employee and customer satisfaction, we live that at National Grid every day. Having been here so long, I have really seen what an impact diversity has had. Having a diverse team allows you to tap into populations that we wouldn’t have necessarily been passionate about tapping into in the past. There are smart people across the board, regardless of zip code, background and upbringing, any sort of preference or anything like that. Smart people aren’t just sitting in the same colleges and communities that we are used to hiring from, and diversity allows you to see that.
What are some steps National Grid has taken to become a better place for women to work?
It’s not just steps we as a company has taken, some of these things are just societal changes. For example, the fact that we can all work remotely with mobile telephony helps. Now mothers and fathers are able to be at 2:00PM baseball games, but still take conference calls from the sidelines. When I was a new mother, there wasn’t much I could do when I was physically away from my desk, so technology has helped all employees, not just women, be able to make work more flexible for them. We have a lot of people who work remotely, whether that means from home or from a National Grid site that is closer to their home than where they would otherwise be assigned. We also adopted a brand new parental leave policy at the beginning of this calendar year for moms and dads that gives a full 8 weeks after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. We also have hard targets for women and minorities on how many people we want to get into various levels of the company. We are always measuring our own progress toward meeting those goals. We take a lot of our inspiration from State Street, who sets a hard target for how they want to increase the amount of employees from underrepresented demographics in their company. Using their model has helped us and continues to help us.
You are the global executive sponsor for the National Grid’s Women in Networks employee affinity group. Could you tell me a little about how you got involved, and how important networking and mentorship has been to your career?
I and a colleague from the UK launched WiN in 2004. The purpose was to make National Grid a place where women want to work. WIN does professional development and we also hold Lunch and Learns where they can learn more about the company and meet people from other departments. We do community events and charity. WIN is a great outlet for women in the company, but there are men who belong to WIN as well, because it’s a great way for people to share ideas and learn from others. The first mentor I had, I didn’t know he was my mentor and I didn’t ask him to be, it was very informal. He was my boss’s boss, which is interesting because I always tell people to find a mentor outside of their direct chain of command, but he was a very welcoming, fun person. He would often express interest in my career, and ask me about different things I was working on. I would engage in these conversations with him, and I found he gave me so much advice over time, that I began to consider him my mentor. I still have lunch with him once a quarter. All people, men and women, should have mentors. I think everyone needs a safe place to talk about navigating the company, bounce ideas off of, working through issues, etc. Mentoring and networking are key because of the relationships you form both inside and outside of your company. Through networking you build advocates, sponsors, people that can help you, and that is so key.
The energy and power industries are still male-dominated. What advice do you have for women trying to get into or get ahead in other fields where that is the case?
The energy, electric, and gas industries are changing. I am part of a group called Executive Women in Energy, which is coordinated by Morgan Stanley. When I joined the group 6 or 7 years ago, there were maybe 20 of us. You have to be executive level to join, meaning President, CFO, General Counsel, etc. Now there are almost 40 of us, and there are more out there who just don’t happen to be part of the group. The best advice I can give is just do a good job. Put your head down, do a good job, build relationships. These days, with very few exceptions, most companies do not want an all-male workforce. Companies are trying to find, retain, and promote good women. All you have to do is be one. There’s a lot that goes along with that, like taking ownership of your work, taking risks and asking for bigger assignments, those kinds of things. But if you do a good job, you will get noticed.