Utility company summit focuses on leadership roles of women

2013-10-23T15:16:00Z 2013-10-23T16:43:24Z Utility company summit focuses on leadership roles of womenBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

Saundra Taylor considers herself a people person and always thought during her 34 years at NIPSCO she knew how to communicate with superiors.

“I thought I did a good job, but I found out I could do better,” said NIPSCO's director of electric field operations at the Hyatt Magnificient Mile lounge Wednesday.

Taylor said she learned how to do a better job of “managing up” last year from mentor Joe Hamrock, CEO of NiSource gas distribution. Hamrock was her mentor in a program that grew out of the first NiSource Women in Leadership summit three years ago.

Wednesday, Taylor and about 180 other NiSource women managers were back for more learning at the third annual Women in Leadership summit at the Hyatt.

They came to hear speakers including Jan Fields, former president of McDonald's USA, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and University College of London Business Psychology Professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic speak about the future of business.

Global business is now all about the “relationships economy” and finding the right people to manage it, Chamorro-Premuzic told his audience.

“You want people who are entrepreneurial, people who can solve future problems,” the professor said.

That kind of thinking is the motivation behind all of NiSource's inclusion and diversity efforts, according to NiSource Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Carrie Hightman.

In addition to the company-wide summit, NiSource's three-year effort at inclusion and diversity brings 500 more female supervisors and managers to regional summits, Hightman said.

The effort is especially important now as the multi-state utility holding company gears up for big capital projects at its NIPSCO subsidiary.

Those include the construction of $500 million in new high-voltage construction lines, a project that is already underway.

NIPSCO also has applied to state regulators to undertake $1 billion in electric distribution system improvements and about $710 million in natural gas distribution system improvements.

The 480-employee team Taylor oversees will be a key player in those efforts.

Also lending a hand will be Dana Brad, manager of major projects for electric transmission, who started working at NIPSCO in 2005.

The Women in Leadership summits have become a big part of her year, she said shortly before the start of Wednesday's event.

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