Today is American Business Women’s Day. This day is about networking, celebrating broken barriers and looking ahead to further progression of working women. For me, this day is personal.

This day of recognition comes with WEI’s Women in Energy Symposium (WiES) just around the corner, Nov. 1-3. There, I will join a diverse mix of energy industry professionals in discussions around networking, recruitment and the state of women in the energy industry.

I will be speaking on the Sponsorship vs. Mentorship Panel with Nancy Arroyoavila of Pacific Gas & Electric, Kristin Stathis from Portland General Electric and Tim Swanson of FortisBC. I look forward to discussing the differences and similarities of these two aspects of career advancements. It is an important topic, yet it is somewhat surprising to me that we are still having this discussion.

I started engineering school 40 years ago, and we had the same conversations then that we are having now: How do we encourage more diversity in the industry? I wouldn’t have thought then that this would still be a challenge 40 years later. On one hand, the industry has changed dramatically and has seen so much improvement for women engineers. At the same time, there is much work left to do.

This is why mentoring and sponsoring is so vital.

For me, mentoring is about helping someone become their best self – helping them tap into their unique strengths – and giving those mentees resources. It’s a way to help other women hone their skills, see insights, and develop as people and leaders. The parallel to this – and just as important – is sponsoring. This is to be someone’s advocate, to champion their cause.

The purpose of today is “to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership; education, networking support and national recognition.”

I believe we have an opportunity to do just that. Women are now sprinkled throughout the male-dominated energy industry. Women in this industry have the opportunity to guide and inspire more female engineers. While some biases still do exist, there are ways to level the playing field. That’s where mentoring and sponsorships come in.

Hear more by tuning into the Sponsorship vs. Mentorship Panel on Nov. 2 and register for WiES here.

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Annette Gardiner
Vice President, Gas Strategic Development
Annette Gardiner joined Itron in September 2016 as its vice president of strategic development.
Prior to joining Itron, Annette held a number of leadership roles in the gas utility industry, including vice president of shared services at Consumers Energy and president of New Mexico Gas Company.