ABB Customer World: Women 'say yes' to opportunity in STEM


HOUSTON -- Presented by EUCI, ABB Customer World held the “Leadership for women in industry” workshop on Wednesday. Janet Heppner-Jones, global sales leader at Enterprise Software, opened the session with information about the ABB Women’s Opportunity Network (WON), an employee resource group for team members with interests that align with women’s issues.  It encourages and inspires women to pursue leadership roles and contribute to the diversity of STEM.

Jones stressed the importance of having power and presence. She noted that only 14.4% of women in the UK, and 20% of women in the U.S., participate in STEM programs. Many of whom, she said, do not stay. Jones noted that STEM jobs are set for a 17% increase, and women are being encouraged to pursue the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Paula Gold-Williams, president and CEO of CPS Energy, was one of several speakers to encourage women to "say yes" to opportunities in their industry at the ABB "Women in Industry" workshop on Wednesday.

Following an open discussion with the audience, Paula Gold-Williams took the stage and echoed the need for women to “say yes” to opportunity. Williams, who serves as the president and CEO at CPS Energy, explained that, as a leader, she is responsible for empowering her employees. Women, in particular tend to second-guess themselves, Williams said, and you should never “box yourself in.”

Many times, Williams said, it is simply about breaking out of an archaic way of thinking. “Be careful not to create doubt where there is none,” she advised.

Closing out the “Women in Industry” program, Tanya Meck, managing partner, and Theresa Gilbert, director of communications, both from Global Strategy Group hosted a workshop on developing political savvy in the workplace.

The two women, who work with women in highly regulated and male-dominated fields, offered tips and strategies to get ahead in the workplace, and putting them into practice through activities throughout the workshop.

Women make up only 5% of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, Meck said, and that number is not accelerating. In the world of politics, 20% of the U.S. Congress is comprised of women.

Advancing in the workplace begins with how women introduce themselves, Meck said. A woman has to be proud of her accomplishments and introduce herself in a way that sets up what expertise or experience she offers, without apology.

There are three types of communication that can affect how women can network and advance in the workplace, Gilbert said. Nonverbal communication, and how a woman presents herself through her appearance is the biggest trigger for judgments.

Following nonverbal is para verbal communication, which is the tone, modulation and volume of speech. Women when the speak, Gilbert said, tend to have an inflection at the end of sentences, turning an idea into a question. This allows for doubt from the speaker as well as the person they’re speaking to, Gilbert said.

Turning to the words women speak, Gilbert called out three words and phrases women use, but need to cut from their vocabularies. These include:

  • Just. Using the word undermines the importance of what a woman is saying
  • Well/you know/I think. These are purely filler words or phrases, and add unnecessary length and distract from the key point a woman is trying to make
  • I’m sorry. Constantly apologizing implies to others that something was done wrong and can undermine people’s confidence in women. Apologize only when necessary.

Communication is the base of political savvy in the workplace, Meck said, becoming a foundation to build on with networking and negotiation skills.

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