“It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.”
Michelle Obama, “Becoming”
Suha is an experienced technology strategist who has led and delivered multimillion-dollar digital transformation programs that required significant change management and collaboration. She continues to play a key role in enabling digital transformation that advances the AESO’s strategic goals and offers an engaging IT experience for the AESO and its stakeholders.
Suha has extensive experience in the energy utilities and transportation industries and is passionate about shaping a culture of belonging and diversity for women within the utilities sector. By actively sharing her experiences with other women, Suha is contributing to a future of inclusivity, where individuals from all walks of life can thrive together and leaders of all genders can one day be seamlessly woven into the fabric of an organization without experiencing any unnecessary hurdles.
Executive search consultants say the No. 1 ask from boards recruiting new directors is CEO or CFO experience. In many sectors, where relatively few women attain CFO and, especially, CEO positions, this can hamper companies seeking to cultivate a diverse roster of directors.
But then there is St. John’s-based Fortis Inc. — a utility with $8.9 billion in revenue, $56 billion in assets and operations in five Canadian provinces, nine U.S. states and three countries in the Caribbean. Fortis has six women on its 12-member board. In addition to their diverse range of director experience, one is a former CEO, two are former CFOs, one is a former president, one is a former COO and the other is a former Chief Digital Officer.
How did they get there? The short answer is that Fortis didn’t restrict its search to women from its own sector. It’s a practice that many diverse boards have applied — yet, at first glance, one that seems more widely embraced in utilities and pipelines, which leads all sectors both in terms of the percentage representation of women directors on boards and in executive officer positions in the C-suite.
Along with Fortis, for example, boards at companies like Enbridge, Emera, TransAlta, Hydro One and Capital Power all count four or five women directors — former CEOs, presidents, CFOs, managing directors, group heads and the like.
However, even in this sector, there are examples of boards with only one woman director or none. The results achieved by other companies in this sector suggests those boards either just aren’t trying hard enough or aren’t making diversity a priority.
Latest diversity data
As noted, overall sector data compiled for Osler’s 2021 Diversity Disclosure Practices report establishes utilities and pipelines as the industry to emulate. In terms of the percentage of women directors, it leads with a mid-year 2021 mark of 35%, compared to 22.1% for the entire group of 614 TSX-listed companies that disclosed. The average of 3.71 women directors per utilities and pipelines board is more than double the TSX-listed average of 1.83 (629 companies disclosed).
Breakdown of number and percentages of women directors in 2021
In terms of women executive officers at mid-year 2021, utilities and pipelines ranked first overall in the average number of female executive officers per company at 5.08, compared to 1.69 for all the TSX-listed firms in Osler’s report (575 companies disclosed). On a percentage basis, women made up 30% of executive officers in the sector as of mid-year 2021, leading the pack in first place. The average for all the TSX-listed companies reporting in this category (565 companies) was 18.2%.
Breakdown of number and percentages of women executive officers in 2021
Trends since 2015
This sector’s positive story is also reflected in gains for women since 2015, both on boards and in the C-suite. The percentage of women directors at mid-year 2021 was up by 75% (35% versus 20% in 2015). The average number of women directors per board increased at roughly the same rate (3.71 at mid-year 2021 versus 2.06 per board in 2015). The percentage of women executives in the utilities and pipelines sector also doubled, according to Osler’s data (30% as of mid-year 2021 versus 15% in 2015) while the number of women executive officers per company increased at a more modest but still significant rate (5.08 versus 3.0).
Women executive officers in the utilities and pipelines sector
Similar data compiled by the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) [PDF], focusing exclusively on FP500 companies, shows a slower rate of change — at least among large utilities, which the CBDC measures separately rather than combined with pipelines. In that group, the percentage of women on boards grew from 27.1% in 2015 to 30.1% in 2018. The change was even more gradual for female executive officers (which the CBDC only started tabulating in 2016), going from 23.2% to 24.3% in 2018.
Best practices and sector leaders
The CBDC’s annual report card points to a couple of sector-wide trends that might help explain the relatively high rates of diversity in utilities and pipelines. According to that report, the utilities sector ranks first in the percentage of boards (55.6%) that have diversity targets for the number of women directors and second for boards that have a written diversity policy (66.7%).
Osler’s research has highlighted a pair of individual companies that have shown leadership in these specific areas.
Inter Pipeline Ltd.
In 2019, the corporation developed a diversity strategy with respect to the construction and operation of its Heartland Petrochemical Complex and also partnered with Women Building Futures. In 2019, Inter Pipeline invested $580,000 to support Women Building Futures in raising awareness and providing pre-apprenticeship training to women in Alberta’s Heartland area.
Inter Pipeline describes various initiatives intended to support its diversity strategy and commitment to advancing women and other individuals of different backgrounds at all levels of the organization. These include a formal internal networking group, formal leadership programs and its support of and partnership with Women Building Futures, an organization offering training for women looking to enter the construction, maintenance, transportation and home building industries. In 2020, the company established a Council for Diversity & Inclusion and introduced a mandatory unconscious bias training program for all employees.
To foster a more equal, diverse and inclusive environment, Emera annually analyzes pay equity, including (a) a wage gap analysis to track progress and identify challenges by affiliate, (b) the exercise of selective pay increases if wage disparity exists and (c) annual monitoring of the rates of women in leadership and senior leadership roles. As part of the company’s governance practices, a minimum of 30% of the board must be comprised of women — a target the organization has surpassed for many years. Currently, four of the directors on the 12-member board are women, including the chair.
Periodically, international consulting firm EY publishes a Women in Power and Utilities index that tracks diversity at the top 200 global utilities by revenue. Based on that data, women are under-represented in this sector in all regions around the world. But there are some significant differences.
The percentage of non-executive women directors on power and utility boards in North America (25%) and Europe (26%) is high, but those figures dwarf percentages in Latin America and the Caribbean (7%); Africa and the Middle East (11%) and Asia-Pacific (13%).
North American utilities have the highest percentage of women in senior management (22%) according to EY, followed by those in Europe (15%), Latin America and the Caribbean (13%), Africa (9%) and Asia-Pacific (9%).
The uneven progress between regions, and at a remaining handful of companies in Canada, is a target for further improvement. But in this sector, unlike some others, leaders and role models are close at hand.
Iconic Power Systems Inc. (ICONIC) is headquartered in Calgary, AB with additional offices in Edmonton, AB, Guelph, ON and Buffalo, NY. Since 2008, ICONIC has been constructing the critical infrastructure that connects people to power.
ICONIC partners with utility companies, independent power producers (IPPS), EPCMs, and General Contractors across traditional and renewable power industries to deliver safe, predictable, and professional power construction projects.
ICONIC provides integrated services including engineering, earthworks, distribution, high voltage utility construction, panel fabrication and storm restoration services.
ICONIC is committed to fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion. Initiatives such as Women + Power align with this commitment.
“Inclusivity unites us, and we garner strength through diversity. Our sponsorship of Women+Power is a commitment towards transformational change in the power industry. We are dedicated to creating an inclusive, barrier-free environment that values and recognizes the diverse talents of all people thereby creating an industry that encourages creativity and inspires innovation.”
Jay Bruchet, President
To learn more about Iconic Power Systems, click here.
Yining provides Capital Markets & Advisory services at Macquarie Group to clients in the power industry and the energy transition space. With a decade of experience, Yining has worked in various roles in the power industry from engineering, operations, strategy & corporate development, concessionary financing to capital markets & advisory, with a transmission provider, an Independent Power Producer, a government agency and an investment bank. In her career often as the only female sitting at the table, Yining believes it has been long overdue to have more women in the industry and is passionate about being a part of that transition.
The Canadian Institute’s 10th Annual Alberta Power Symposium takes place in Calgary on September 21-22, 2022 at the Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel.
This conference occurs over two transformative days of sharing and learning of key issues revolving around alternative energy sources, grid infrastructure, disruption and innovation, clean energy generation, transmission and distribution. Gain insight from the major players in the power sector as they assess the key drivers that are transforming Alberta’s electricity sector and respond to the targets of a net-zero economy.
Women+Power Members Save 10% With Promo Code: D10-999-WOMENPOWER. Register here.
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
Evan has spent a career in public policy; first working in Ottawa for a Minister in Mulroney’s government and now as Executive Director of the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta (IPPSA). He’s learned a) never to confuse correct with popular, b) there are way more sides than two in any given issue, especially when it comes to electricity policy, and c) and that leadership starts with listening. He’s a devoted husband and proud father.
He recognizes the strong role women have had in Alberta’s electricity industry and wants to help by increasing the opportunities for women, reducing barriers and expanding allies.
We couldn’t be more thrilled with the support we received from our guests at our first member-only in person event on June 16, 2022! It was so great to meet so many of our members in the flesh and we thoroughly enjoyed connecting over some great conversation. We know this event has been a long time coming and we thank you for joining us at The RoofTop YYC!
Women+Power would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their support and donations. Your contributions made the event possible and allowed us to provide giveaways to our members in attendance:
Mr. Brett Wilson and The Rooftop YYC for providing us with a venue for the event at the most popular (and fully booked til forever) patio in town! It was many of our attendees first visit since the Rooftop’s expansion, and everyone was impressed. The food and drinks were delicious!
Anna Marie Chocolates for the generous donation of 10 boxes of beautifully hand-made chocolates . Anna-Marie has been creating chocolate delights for over 10 years. She attended a variety of chocolate courses, including “Bean-To-Bar” and Showpiece Creations. She is an avid culinary traveler and has tasted chocolates all around the world. To place an order or for more information, contact Anna-Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thank you to Divine Creations for donating the exquisite flower arrangement that adorned our Network Event sign-in table until it was raffled off to one of our lucky attendees!
If you missed this event, please consider becoming a member to receive invitations to all of our exclusive offerings. Click here to join as a member today (membership is free!).
A big thank you to our sponsors for their continued support, and shout out to our newest sponsor,Enfinite, for recentlyjoining Women+Power at the Megawatt level. We have some exciting things in the works. Stay tuned!
Higher Landing is an innovative, results focused, career transformation company that provides collaborative “go-to-market” assistance for individuals transitioning, transforming or reinventing their careers. This includes professional transition, branding and marketing services. Leading the evolution of the outplacement and transition industry, Higher Landing offers clients a cutting-edge program delivered by a team of professionals who help them land higher in their career. They take the traditional transition process to a new level with a proprietary approach that aims to connect head with heart, and identify strengths, values, passions, and purpose. Then, they go further by adding personal branding and strategic marketing to client programs which set a new industry standard.
Calgary Women in Energy (CWiE) is an exclusive, non-profit, oil women’s society dedicated to promoting, supporting and empowering women in Calgary’s energy sector. Members are directly engaged in oil field exploration and production, pipelines and facilities, construction and manufacturing. Working collaboratively with men in the industry, CWiE is a dynamic collection of professional women with integrity and shared aspirations. We facilitate meaningful approaches to networking and embrace new ways of enriching our connections. CWiE strives to make a positive impact on both our industry and our community through charitable work, organic mentorship and education.
Decentralised Energy Canada (DEC) is a national industry association dedicated to the appropriate development of decentralised energy. DEC provides a network pathway for startups, entrepreneurs, corporations, and market leaders to work together in the most efficient and productive way. DEC is Canada’s market access hub for the decentralised energy sector and provides training for those seeking to develop onsite energy solutions. DEC members include many of Canada’s leading experts in market intelligence and system design.
Axis Connects is a non-profit organization taking the lead role in being a central collaboration and resource hub for women and diverse professionals. The Axis Connects Hub, an online platform and membership portal, unites members with the organizations and companies whose initiatives are working to strengthen diverse representation in Calgary’s business community and provide detailed professional development resources to guide them through their career journey. AXIS also champions incredible business leaders at the Calgary Influential Women in Business Awards which is held annually.
Enfinite Corporation, formerly WCSB Power Generation LP, is a North American leader in energy storage and the largest battery operator in Alberta. Enfinite specializes in developing robust energy storage solutions that bring greater reliability, viability and sustainability to the power grid and its stakeholders. Our energy storage investments support a transition from fossil fuels to renewables to create a more sustainable and reliable clean energy future. We are committed to best in class environmental, social and governance principles. Enfinite presently operates 40 MW of Tesla Megapack battery systems in Alberta, with 20 MW under construction, and an additional 120 MW targeted to be in-service, by Q2 2023. Enfinite specializes in developing winning storage solutions that offer better reliability, viability and sustainability to the power grid and its stakeholders.
To learn more about Enfinite Corporation, click here.