Women Representation Increasing in Electric Cooperative Workforce - Carolina Country

Women Increasingly Powering America’s Electric Co-ops

Female representation in the electric cooperatives is growing and leaves a lasting impact.

By Scott Flood, for NRECA

Women represent an increasing share of the electric cooperative workforce, and today you’ll find women in every imaginable role among North Carolina’s electric cooperatives: engineers, communicators, financial managers, executive leadership and more.

International Women’s Day is March 8. It’s a great occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of the many women who are transforming electric co-ops and how they serve their local communities. It’s hard to imagine a better career field for those with an interest in making their communities better places to live, work and play.

“The competition for talent and skill shortages has highlighted the need to expand recruitment strategies to get a more diverse range of candidates,” explains Desiree Dunham, Workforce Programs Manager for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). “The diverse experiences and perspectives of women contribute to more creative and effective problem-solving, which can be especially beneficial in navigating complex challenges and finding innovative solutions that cater to a broad range of consumer needs.”

Co-ops across America are actively working to build awareness among young women about the opportunities available to them. Some even host day camps for teens in which they get a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved with delivering electric power. Beyond the highly visible roles such as linework, participants learn about how people in areas as diverse as IT, finance and environmental compliance are vital to co-op operations. Without that exposure, those future co-op leaders probably wouldn’t know those jobs exist. As the familiar adage reminds us, women cannot be what they cannot see.

Students aren’t the only target of such efforts. Mentorship programs, conferences and other networking opportunities create platforms through which women can connect and share their experiences. The recently launched Women in Power Mentoring program for the electric co-op community provides mentorship and resources to support and guide women in their careers. Women Lead NC, sponsored in part by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, is an annual statewide event in Raleigh promoting women in leadership.

“These positive shifts need to be continuously reinforced with targeted outreach efforts, career awareness campaigns and support systems to enhance the entry points and career progression for women in co-ops,” Dunham notes.

As nearly 20% of the nation’s co-op workforce nears retirement age over the next five years and local cooperatives work within an ever-tighter job market, expanding the pool of potential workers is an effective solution. At the same time, there are many reasons women who are entering (or reentering) the workforce should consider finding a place in the electric co-op world.

“Cooperatives are often recognized as ‘best place to work’ employers in their communities, offering competitive benefits, caring cultures and support for families,” said Dana Davis, vice president of human resources for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Co-ops also have a solid commitment to strengthening inclusion and diversity, and women are often strong advocates for fostering a culture where all individuals are valued for their skills and expertise.”

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