Women Make Their Mark on the Energy Industry

September 15, 2019

This piece was published in the Empire State Publication and the article was written by one of our members, Erin Holohan-Haskell.  This is just one example of the talents our members have and are willing to share.

“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like my dad. I loved being in the shop and learning how things worked,” says Bobbi Jean Hill of W.B. Hill Inc. She is now a proud member of the next generation of the company her family founded in 1910. W.B. Hill specializes in tank truck and trailer fabrication and repairs. One of her favorite projects was working with her dad on a “gas station on wheels” to provide assistance during natural disasters.

In an industry that has been predominantly male, Hill and many women like her have been making their mark. She notes, “When I was younger, there were rarely women at trade shows. And if they were there, they were models or cheerleaders hired to stand in booths…but it’s not that way anymore. I think the industry is changing for the better, especially for women.”

Part of that change is being spurred by Women in Energy, a new association that provides career resources, as well as networking and mentoring opportunities. “Our mission is to connect and empower women working in the energy industry,” says Judy Garber, Executive Director of Women in Energy. “We also educate younger generations about career opportunities available within our industry.”

Garber, who has spent decades in the energy industry, reflects on her career path, “When I was growing up, women had three career choices: nurse, teacher, or secretary. And none of those choices appealed to me. Today you can do whatever you want to do as a woman. And young women should take advantage of those choices because prior generations of women have paved the way for them.”

“I think women have always been behind the scenes,” says Roberta Fagan, Executive Director of the Oil Heat Institute of RI, and President of Women in Energy. “A lot of our businesses are multi-generational, family businesses and I think women have been there all along. But in today’s changing and evolving energy sector, women are coming to the forefront and saying, ‘We have the skills to help our companies diversify and stay relevant.’”

Garber, Marjorie Feinman (Associate Director of Fuel Merchants Association of NJ), and fellow industry leaders founded Women in Energy in 2017 to help other professionals and strengthen our industry. “It’s been wonderful working with this group of very talented, bright women,” says Garber.

The association has grown rapidly and had record attendance at its annual conference in May 2019 in Hershey, PA. The event featured an empowering two-day program filled with education and networking. Women in Energy emphasizes education and mentorship; and members have benefited by learning from one another and sharing their knowledge.

“It seems to be a theme that women encourage each other, especially in this industry,” says Liz Hill of Primedia, Inc.

Women in Energy launched their Mentorship Award this year and invited three students to attend the conference, meet members, and learn more about the career paths that are available to them. Members of Women in Energy include women and men working in various areas of the energy industry, including HVAC companies, manufacturing, fuel dealers, fuel truck and equipment sales, insurance agencies, media organizations, technology firms, and more.

When asked about their work history, many women have noted that they did not initially plan on joining the energy industry, but are pleased that their career paths brought them here. Others are embracing their roles as the next generation to lead a family business.

Allison Heaney became President of Skaggs-Walsh, a heating-oil provider, in 1994 when her father Peter passed away. She was just 24 years old at the time, but she weathered the storm and took charge. “It is a hard industry, but it is a very rewarding industry,” Heaney says.

Women in our industry have faced adversity, but Women in Energy is providing them with valuable career tools and support.

“This industry is very welcoming,” says Marci Gagnon of Qualpay. “For every one person that I’ve had a challenge with, there have been 50-60 people that have offered insight or have just been really supportive. So while this industry may seem very male dominant, it’s actually here for everyone. And it’s amazing to see that companies are not only being passed down to men, but women are also starting to take over their family-owned businesses. And so, there’s more opportunity for women in this space. And there are a lot of great folks who are helping to empower them in the industry.”

Tina Starner, an environmental compliance specialist, adds, “There are opportunities to prove yourself and to prove that women do belong in this industry, as in any industry. We’ve got what it takes to grab the baton and run with it.”

Author Bio
Erin Holohan Haskell is President of HeatingHelp.com, a vibrant online community and trusted resource for heating information. She is also a founding member and Vice President of Women in Energy.