Electricity. Something that almost all of us take for granted. My life’s work has been to ensure that the supply of electricity is adequate and reliable. What would our lives be like without it? No computers. No cell phones. No air conditioning. No coffee maker. No refrigerator. The list is almost endless. We would be less comfortable, less safe, less productive.
Did I know that I wanted to work in the electric utility industry when I was growing up? NO. I didn’t even know when I went to college that I was going to be an engineer. No one encouraged me to pursue engineering, not even my Ph.D. engineer father. But, at the University of Virginia (where I was in the third undergraduate class in which women were admitted – under court order), I eventually found my way to the engineering school and graduated with a B.S. in applied mathematics and a minor in electrical engineering.
For my first job, I ended up as a planner for Duke Power Company, an electric utility in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a great fit for me and it allowed me to get my M.B.A at night, while working full time. After moving to Colorado in 1981, I became registered as a professional engineer and have worked as a consultant to the electric utility industry for over 30 years. I serve as an expert witness and testify before regulatory bodies on behalf of my utility clients generally on the topic of the selection and prudence of generating resource selection. Those generation resources have included power plants fueled by coal, natural gas, water, the sun, and the wind. I have also examined power plants fueled by a wide variety of other technologies from nuclear to geothermal.
Since I was not encouraged to become an engineer, I have spent most of my professional career actively encouraging others, particularly girls and women, to pursue STEM careers through the Society of Women Engineers. I served as National President in 1991-1992 and believe not only that engineers make the world work, but that women make excellent STEM practitioners. And there should be more women in all STEM fields.
One of the other things that I strongly believe is that women should be recognized for their accomplishments. To that end, I have twice been at the White House where my nominee has received the National Medal of Technology from the President of the United States (Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Yvonne Brill, 2011, President Barack Obama). I have nominated over 20 women, many of them STEM women, to the National Women’s Hall of Fame (www.greatwomen.org) and today I serve as President of the Board of Directors of the Hall. I blog for the Huffington Post because of that position. I have been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (www.cogreatwomen.org). I have nominated women for a wide range of other awards as well. And, I have an award-winning and bestselling book for which I speak all over the country – Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.
Today, I sit as an independent (or outside) director on two corporate boards – Georgia Transmission Corporation of Tucker, Georgia and Merrick & Company of Greenwood Village, Colorado (see photo). Did you know that companies that have women on their boards tend to perform better – produce higher levels of profit – than companies that don’t? More women are needed on corporate boards as well.
My life is not all work. I play tennis (see photo), do needlework, participate in community organizations (I am a lifetime Girl Scout!), and enjoy traveling. My life has been and continues to be rewarding because of my education and career and life choices along the way. I believe you just can’t go wrong by selecting a STEM career.
Jill on the tennis court with family and friends, May 2014. I am on the far left.