Remarks by Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Second International Conference Women In Energy 2018

Speech by Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, Deputy Chief of Mission
Second International Conference Women In Energy 2018

Monday, June 4, 12:30

Minister Carovska, Minister Apostolska, Professor Spasevska, Stefan, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to speak at the opening of this Women in Energy conference.  It is my sincere pleasure to be with you once again.  I am delighted that EVN and the Engineering Institute of Macedonia committed to again organizing this important event.

Last year I spoke about research that links gender diversity to improved performance at the company level.  I explained that this was why the U.S. government, through USAID, was investing in efforts to diversify the leadership of the important power sector.

I am happy to report that we are seeing excellent results from the Engendering Utilities Program, which seeks to improve gender parity in electricity utilities by increasing the number of women working in technical and leadership positions.  Macedonia is one of only five countries currently included in this program.

This past year, executives from all participating companies, including EVN, committed significant staff time so their professionals could participate in an Engendering Utilities program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.  Through the Georgetown Gender Equity Executive Leadership training, participants developed action plans to increase gender equality in their companies.

I want to applaud EVN Macedonia for developing an innovative dual career promotion path that added avenues for women to advance in the company and for developing and implementing a competency based recruitment and hiring process that helps reduce gender biases from the interview and selection process, increasing the number of qualified women hired at EVN.

In all five countrie, participating companies have also developed outreach programs to engage schools and universities to encourage girls to pursue studies that will qualify them for technical positions.  By participating in career fairs, starting internships, and presenting targeted training programs, EVN is encouraging young women and girls to consider professional opportunities in EVN and to acquire the relevant knowledge and skills to succeed in the energy industry.

Initiatives like USAID’s Engendering Utilities Program and the efforts made by EVN are critical to expanding the number of women in the energy industry.  When women serve as policymakers, executives, employees, and entrepreneurs, studies have shown that energy policies are more effective, energy products have higher sales rates, and utilities have higher returns on equity and investment.

We know that women in the technical and scientific fields have had to work harder than their male counterparts to establish their expertise, to win their share of research funding, to have their innovative ideas given serious consideration.

Unfortunately, there is still a wide perception that technology, science, and research are masculine fields.  Still, today, girls who excel in math at school are noted as “exceptions.”  That’s ridiculous.  That in 2018, girls and young women should have to fight a stereotype that “girls don’t do math.”

Tomorrow, we, the U.S. Embassy, will screen the movie “Hidden Figures” as a concluding event to this conference.  I hope you will all stay for the showing.

The movie tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians who played crucial roles in the success of the American space program at NASA during the space race and beyond.

They began their careers in the 50’s and early 60’s and faced both racial segregation and workplace discrimination based on their race and gender.  The movie is the inspirational account of how these three women Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, overcame the biases against them and excelled.  To the highest degree — in 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by President Obama.

After Hidden Figures was released, many organizations funded free screenings of the movie to encourage girls to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  We have shown the movie several times this year and it always inspires and gets a great reaction.  Indeed, I brought my 12-year old daughter and her friend to a screening in March.  I was thrilled to listen to them rehash the movie and the achievements of the three women as we drove home afterwards.

Girls do need inspiration.  We all do.  Throughout our careers.

I hope that as you share your thoughts, experience, and career advice over these next two days that you will inspire each other.

Inspire each other to take on new challenges, to reject assumptions that put you in a corner, to encourage women and girls to see possibilities in the fields of science, technology, and energy, and to pursue your passions.  Because we live in a dynamic world and we all benefit if everyone is encouraged to think of broad possibilities and to use their talents to make the most impact.

Thank you for inviting me to speak and I wish you the best with your conference.