Advice from a Woman of the Year

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Public Power

Public Power

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2017
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Recently, I had the good fortune to be named the Woman of the Year by the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, also known as WCEE. On March 7, WCEE held its annual gala, honoring me and the 2017 Champion, Dr. Robert Marlay, Director of the Office of Climate Change Policy and Technology at the Department of Energy.

If you are a woman professional in D.C. working in the energy and environmental areas, you likely know about WCEE. As its website states, it is a “non-partisan, policy-neutral organization that focuses on women, energy and the environment.”  As many as 900 women professionals are members – as well as men.

The organization has been around since the 1980s, and is a great way to meet others working in these fields and learn about recent developments. WCEE holds many luncheon programs, happy hours, and educational events.

Sue Kelly at WCEE

The gala started with a reception, which was a mob scene. It was amazing how many people I knew there – it was like my entire professional life was passing before me! Everyone from my own Association board members to former law partners and clients and innumerable work colleagues from NRECA, EEI and other industry associations and organizations were at the gala.

Bob Marlay gave a very inspirational talk about his work at the Department of Energy to foster an increased role for women. He is an Ambassador to the U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Initiative for Women in Clean Energy, and has championed its growth since its inception in 2011.

Robin Cantor of the Berkeley Research Group, WCEE’s President, graciously introduced me. Then Tom Kuhn, the CEO of the Edison Electric Institute, led the group in a celebratory toast to me.

EES North America

Tom and Marv Fertel, the now retired CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, were very supportive of me when I first became CEO of the American Public Power Association in 2014. So it was an honor to have Tom lead the toast.

Being tasked with speaking after dinner is always perilous, given that attendees have been eating and drinking for some time, and are already thinking about the drive home. And Robin had told me I had fifteen minutes – no more.

I decided to skip the deep policy pronouncements and philosophical discussions about our energy and environmental future. Instead, I passed on six pieces of advice I had learned, often the hard way, during my thirty-seven years doing energy work in D.C. Here are the six pieces, in a nutshell:

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good: Way too many women (including me) hold ourselves

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