​By Lisa Meiman

A new group in Sierra Nevada strives to foster an atmosphere of equality and encouragement by providing professional development and personal growth opportunities.

The Women’s Employee Resource Group held its first event on Feb. 1 to promote interest and engagement both within the region and WAPA-wide.

“We’re really excited to launch this type of empowering program,” said Public Utilities Specialist Jennifer Henn. “It’s WERG’s goal to assist in the professional growth of women here at SN, with the hope that the program can be duplicated at other regions in the future.”

Henn and Program Support Specialist Alexia Mendoza were inspired to create the group after attending the Electric Utility Consultants Leadership Conference for Women in Energy in June 2017.

“It was energizing, empowering and fantastic,” said Henn. “One session was about how to set up our own group. It’s becoming an industry standard to have women’s groups and help remove roadblocks that prevent women from reaching leadership positions.”

All SN employees are welcome to join the group and attend WERG’s events, even if they aren’t active members.

“WERG is an inclusive group,” said Public Utilities Specialist Padmini Palwe, the third member of WERG’s leadership trio. “Even if it says ‘women’s,’ it is for everyone. It’s focused on developing people and enhancing careers.”

WERG anticipates hosting an event ev​ery other month, which will include professional enrichment activities, social networking and team building.

“It is a combination of presentations, mentorship opportunities and networking. We will have sessions on confidence, public speaking, negotiation skills, resume writing and work-life balance,” said Henn.

The inaugural event featured three speakers, followed by a brown-bag lunch and discussion. All WAPA offices were invited to attend the presentations via WebEx and video teleconference.

The speakers included Senior Vice President, Acting Chief Administrative Officer and Transmission Infrastructure Program Manager Tracey LeBeau and Acting Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dawn Roth Lindell. Employment Law Attorney and Workplace Investigator Caroline Schuyler also presented on the subject of “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Today.”

“WERG has received positive reactions from staff and managers who are recognizing the tremendous benefits in fostering a culture of equality and professional development,” said Mendoza.

“The event was definitely the highlight of the week for me,” Administrative Assistant Aeryka Denton said. “All of the speakers were truly engaging and thought provoking. For a new person at WAPA, especially as a woman, it was really awesome seeing the space that has been created here. It was inspiring seeing the experiences of other women at the organization, not to mention the widespread support among employees for some of these typically tougher topics.”

A second meeting scheduled for March 23 will focus on board formation and role assignment. The third meeting in April will discuss understanding unspoken and unwritten social norms.

Padmini Palwe

Public Utilities Specialist Padmini Palwe, one of WERG’s leaders, addresses the audience at the group’s  inaugural event. (Photo by Matt Monroe)

Last modified on September 12th, 2023