Oct 21

Women In NECA: Unique Leadership

Women In NECA opened their roundtable discussion at NECA 2013 DC with a reminder of the growth opportunities presented by change. “We had many new faces at our Women In NECA Summit in St. Louis earlier this year, and it is tremendous to see how WIN has grown in just a few years,” said WIN chair Rachel Barber, VEC Inc., Girard, Oh. “WIN’s membership has become much more diverse in the work the members do and the work our companies do. And that makes it even more important that we spend time together learning from each other and making connections.”

Like most WIN programs, this year’s Roundtable started with a question: What does it take to become a leader in NECA? “We know when we look around the office or a chapter meeting that women are under-represented in both NECA membership and leadership roles. So what can we do about that?” Barber asked.

Frank Piatt, NECA Field Representative, Eastern Region and a former chapter manager, shared his observations for how member leaders move through the ranks. His fundamental messages – show up; show interest; show your cards; show restraint; and show what you can offer – urged WIN members to demonstrate their desire to serve their chapter and association. “Let other members know you’re interested and aware. Even if you think a speaker at a chapter meeting has nothing to do with your work, go to the meeting. You never know who else will be there.”

Carolyn Fazio described how ELECTRI International and the Electrical Construction Political Action Committee (ECPAC) can put WIN members on a leadership fast-track. “When you get involved with ELECTRI or ECPAC, or encourage your chapter to participate, you get a seat at the table with the leading industry organizations. Your voice will be heard,” she said. Fazio also discussed how the Foundation is encouraging more women to pursue careers in electrical contracting through the Green Energy Challenge and Student Initiative.

The keynote speaker was Diane Brown, Vice President of Organizational Development for Thomas & Betts, a NECA Premier Partner. Tapping into her human resources expertise, Brown pulled together data demonstrating the leadership traits women naturally possess – and the pitfalls they encounter when they use those skills.

“I used to have a boss who would tell me during every annual review that I needed to do a better job,” she said. “So I would ramp up and tap into that stamina, creative-thinking and multitasking skills women possess. And the next year, it would be the same: ‘you need to do a better job, Diane.’ I finally figured out what he was saying – I needed to slow down. I didn’t need to do everything. I needed to be more careful with my work, rather than doing more. Women do more. But that wasn’t the right answer for this situation. The good news is, women are excellent at listening and adapting. We make changes happen very quickly when the situation calls for them.”

Brown’s presentation can be downloaded here.

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