In addition to a full-time job working at Spartan Controls and completing her MBA, 30-year old Katie Smith has led Young Women in Energy for the last three and a half years, doubling its membership during that time.
Founded in 2013 by Anna Murray, the non-profit organization is working to increase the presence and voice of women in Alberta’s energy industry.
“Feeling isolated in this industry is real. Many of the women in Young Women in Energy don’t work directly with any other women in their day-to-day roles, it’s still very male dominated,” says Smith.
“Young Women in Energy offers meeting like-minded women, or those who are in similar roles to you; just so you know they exist outside of your role or company. It’s the opportunity to connect with other women about whether there are opportunities or challenges. We are working to facilitate this peer support.”
Increasing access to opportunities
Young Women in Energy (YWE) believes young women have the power to change the energy industry for the better. Key to this is increasing the opportunities for women to be in the room where decisions are made.
“The concept of the old boys club isn’t necessarily bad, because it actually works – it’s when people scratch each other’s backs or give them the heads up on opportunities or champion people they know to do work,” Smith says
“We are developing a community where women support other women and want to increase access to opportunities where decisions are being made, so you’re not the lone wolf walking into the lion’s den.”
In addition to acumen and leadership development sessions, a book club, a golf league and a two-day summit for the 4,000+ strong group, YWE awards 10 women every year who are changing the face of energy, with a group of 52 women having earned the distinction since it began. These women are high-performers, community minded, moving or advancing the energy sector forward.
Diversity to propel the energy industry forward
Moving the energy sector forward is precisely Smith’s vision for YWE. She believes if more diverse groups of people lead companies it will bring a new perspective and the opportunity think outside of the box.
“Up until the last couple of years we haven’t even looked at the full pool of candidates – if we can offer more qualified people to be considered for roles we can bring in a fresh viewpoint,” she says.
“With the energy industry what’s always been done before, doesn’t work anymore, so I’m hoping that there are some really incredible, diverse people who can offer other ideas that can propel us forward.”
A passion for young women leading the way
Smith is passionate about YWE because it fundamentally aligns with all of her values. She believes that women have not been used to their full potential in the energy industry and wants to be the voice to lead the charge to make that change.
“I’m passionate about prepping the next generation to lead, cross-generation mentorship is so important. Young up and comers are going to have a totally different economy and totally different business landscape to deal with,” she says.
“The energy industry one of the most fascinating, complex, multidisciplinary industries out there, but I think it gets a bad rap and it’s up to young people to re-brand it.”
Katie's tips on how to support women (as a peer):
- Sponsor women. You don't need to be C-Suite to bring up another woman's projects, products, services or accomplishments into a conversation when they're not in the room.
- Choose collaboration over competition. Regardless of your position - it starts with you. Let go of your ego and insecurities and be proud to share the spotlight with other women.
- Join a network of women (like YWE!) to meet other like-minded women and have a comfortable space to share challenges and opportunities.