A new program at the School of International and Public Affairs' Center on Global Energy Policy aims to support women interested in working in the energy industry by hosting female speakers and providing opportunities for students to network with professionals.
Ke Wei, the program coordinator at the Center on Global Energy Policy, said that she and her colleagues came up with the idea for Women in Energy when they realized that all of the speakers the center hosted had been men.
"You just don't see as many women in the energy industry, especially in senior positions," Wei said. "The idea is to work with potential employers and find women in those companies that are really passionate about similar issues, about supporting women, and to bring them into the program as potential mentors, as people that students in the program can refer to."
Jesse McCormick, the program director at the center, said that SIPA and the broader Columbia community have a large population of women interested in energy issues.
"We think it's just a great population here that can really help fill the gap that we see in the real world," he said.
Right now, the program only consists of monthly networking events for students—the first was held on Jan. 30 and featured Lady Barbara Judge, deputy chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company's Nuclear Reform and Monitoring Committee. McCormick said they hope to eventually offer one-on-one mentorships and funds for internships and research.
The goal is to "connect with other women who are in the energy industry, or who have made it to relatively senior levels within that to give them a sense of what it took for them to get there and the types of challenges, as well as opportunities, that arise when you are a woman," Wei said.
She said the program is designed to help make an otherwise male-dominated industry more accessible for women.
"I think we're at a time where you are supposed to be able to talk about these issues, but it's still really hard when you're the one woman at a recruiting event, at a table with four guys, and you're automatically put into or assumed to be put into a certain role," Wei said.
SIPA students said they appreciated the goals of the new program.
"The energy industry is facing new kinds of challenges," Celine Rottier said, a master's student at SIPA studying international energy management and policy. "You need to get all the best minds together, and that includes women."
Bridget Hardy, who's studying public administration at SIPA, said she has noticed that most of her peers who have professional experience in the energy industry are men. She said she is looking forward to interacting with other women who are interested in energy issues.
"The Women in Energy program seems really appealing to me as a group of women who get together and talk about energy, what type of careers are out there, and how women can get into the field," Hardy said.
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