Ever since her days at the University of Michigan, Wendy Stark always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in law; however, she did not envision that her journey would lead her into the world of utilities, and much less, into a leadership role. 

“Oddly enough, I was not at all interested in corporate work at the time,” recalls Stark, who serves as executive vice president of utilities,chief legal officer and corporate secretary of PPL Corporation. “My career trajectory was certainly not a straight line; it was more about navigating a pathway that has changed over time.” 

Shortly after graduating from law school, Stark represented an energy company as one of her first clients.

“That was when I first realized that utility workers are deeply rooted in their communities in ways that other industries are not,” said Stark. ” Day in and day out, they provide a service that touches almost every corner of our lives. And when the power goes out, it’s the utility’s people who are suiting up and heading out to help others.”  

Stark achieved great success in the energy industry early on; however, balancing motherhood with a demanding career was no easy feat. At one point in her career, an executive had mentioned that he was leaving work every Thursday to be an assistant coach for his son’s football team.

“I remember thinking, ‘He’s a hero in everyone’s eyes, yet if I leave for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, I’m not committed to work.’ There were different gender dynamics back then,” recalled Stark.

It was then that work became fiercely competitive for her.

“I had a really long period of making sure that I could be successful, of not being perceived as just the ‘mom’ or the ‘girl’ on the team,” said Stark. 

Sometime later, her workgroup was involved in significant transactions that caused her to be away from home for several days, often coming home to find her 3-year-old son already asleep.

“Before I would travel, I’d sit down with him, and we would count bedtimes. I would say ‘Mommy’s going to be gone for three bedtimes. So, we’ll have bedtime tonight,’” she recalls.

While the trips were tough for Stark, they were especially difficult for her son who often cried as he counted on his little fingers the number of days before mom would be back home.  

“And then one day, he didn’t cry. That was the moment that really crystallized it for me: It had become normal for my kids to not see me, and that’s not who I am. That’s not the mom I wanted to be,” shared Stark. 

Stark made a decision that ultimately allowed her to balance work and life in a much healthier way. She changed jobs, moving from Ohio to Washington, D.C. at the time.

“I chose my family,” she said. “But I was able to do it in a way that didn’t sacrifice my career goals.” 

After more than two decades of experience in the energy sector, Stark joined PPL in 2021, where she currently leads its legal department, supervises the presidents of PPL’s four utility companies, and oversees the corporation’s ethics and compliance, internal audit, public affairs and communications teams. 

Today, Stark talks regularly with her team and others about the important lessons she has learned as a working parent.

“I tell women, and I tell parents regularly, that our kids, our family are most important. We should be able to have that balance and freedom. I’m going to meet my obligations at work. I’m going to give work my all, but today I need a couple hours to be with my kid.” 

Stark recently had a chance to talk to her daughter (the former Girl Scout), now in college.

“She said to me, ‘Mom, I think you were always there.’ And it made me cry, because I was thinking, ‘You know what? If I had been asked that question in a vacuum, I remember the times I wasn’t there, but what she just told me is that most of the time I picked right, because her memory is that I was there when it mattered.’ So, if there is one other piece of advice that I would offer, it would be this: Be intentional when it come to the things that truly matter.” 

Learn more about Wendy and her role at PPL

May 10, 2024