March is Women’s History Month, which commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.
At PPL, we’re proud of the integral roles women in our company play in shaping the future of our business, meeting the needs of tomorrow’s energy grid and building better communities where we live and work.
In honor of Women’s History Month, some of PPL’s women leaders are sharing encouraging words and leadership lessons drawn from their experiences and perspectives.
On the importance of trailblazers
PPL Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Joanne Raphael looks to bold women who were “firsts” in their field and who have shattered glass ceilings. During her career, she has gained inspiration from studying women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Sandra Day O’Connor and Jeannette Rankin as outspoken advocates for civil rights.
“I admire former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,” said Raphael. “She was the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court — a huge step from her first job as deputy county attorney in San Mateo, Ca., which she landed by offering to take no salary.
“Jeannette Rankin, hailing from Montana, is another true trailblazer,” Raphael said. “She was the first woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1917, before women had the right to vote nationally, and was a strong voice for passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted unrestricted voting rights to women in the United States.”
Raphael urges others to remain optimistic and believe in themselves.
“Be optimistic; and remember, you’re stronger than you think,” said Raphael. “And, to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘Women are like tea bags. We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water.’”
On taking risks
Stephanie Raymond is vice president of Distribution Operations for PPL Electric Utilities. She is at the helm of an organization responsible for delivering electricity to more than 1.4 million customers, 24 hours a day. She is no stranger to risk and feels that stepping out of your comfort zone is vital to personal and professional growth.
“Create a personal mission statement and live it every day,” said Raymond. “My own personal mission is to make a difference each and every day by having the courage to blaze new trails.
“With this mission in mind, it makes risk-taking a lot less risky. No matter if I am moving across the country, changing industries or changing roles, if my actions are courageous and they make a difference, then I am positive I am headed in the right direction.”
On the importance of mentors
Marlene Beers, vice president and controller for PPL, knows the value of a good mentor and has had many during her career. Her mentors have provided multiple viewpoints and opinions to help guide her path. She notes that her most influential mentor was her mother, who had high expectations and always encouraged her to work hard to reach success.
“I was raised by a very strong woman,” said Beers. “My mother was the champion of two girls and she pushed and drove us to success. She has been instrumental in my life and has clearly had a hand in who I am today — at home and in the workplace.
“The day she died I wondered who I would ask for advice, but she prepared me,” Beers said. “Now I always know what she would have said. I could not have asked for a better upbringing. We did not have a lot of money, but my parents sent us to college with the right mindset and determination. My job as a woman executive is to make sure I provide this same encouragement to our future women leaders.”
On giving back
Chris Whelan is Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ vice president of Communications and Corporate Responsibility. Success for her isn’t about measuring your accomplishments and milestones, but using the wisdom gained along the way to give back and nurture others.
A quote she keeps with her always is, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
“I’m a huge proponent of volunteerism because I truly believe in the importance of giving back, but I always gain valuable skills along the way,” said Whelan. “I’m the president of the board of Saint Joseph Children’s Home, which provides care for some of Kentucky’s most abused and neglected children. They do amazing work to help give these kids a home and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this organization.”
On leading from where you are
As PPL’s Vice President – Public Affairs and Sustainability, Christine Martin oversees the corporation’s advocacy and policy development, corporate communications and sustainability efforts. Her approach to leadership is not about climbing a ladder but focusing on pursuing opportunities that stretch her abilities.
“I always want to work on exciting projects that make a difference, and I’m always testing my limits,” said Martin. “When I see opportunities to stretch myself, I go for them.”
Whether she was travelling the world for her studies or pivoting from legislative roles with the government to a corporate role with PPL, Martin always found that she could do more and really excel if she stepped out of her comfort zone.
She offers this pearl of wisdom from American author Nora Roberts to others seeking to lead, “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”
On the importance of following good advice
Alison Sleightholm, Western Power Distribution’s Resources and External Affairs director, plays an integral role in leading regulatory price reviews and developing the business plan for the company. She is an accomplished engineer and now advocates for women in STEM professions as a member of the WISE organization.
Her career path wasn’t always easy and when she set out more than 30 years ago to be a woman engineer, she took the path less travelled and owes it all to some early advice.
“The best advice I ever received was from my father,” said Sleightholm. “He told me when I was very young that there was nothing that couldn’t be achieved without hard work.”
WPD’s late CEO Robert Symons also taught her some valuable lessons.
“He told me to always be myself and never to try to be somebody else. Robert also taught me that leadership is about action not position.
“My advice to other women considering a career in engineering is to work hard, do plenty of math and remember any barriers to your personal growth are those you invent for yourself,” Sleightholm said.
On work-life balance
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Jennifer McDonough learned about the give and take of work-life balance early in her career when she and her 17-month old son moved 700 miles away from her husband, so she could pursue a law degree in Pittsburgh.
“I believe work-life balance is a misnomer – it is really just all part of life,” said McDonough. “Work is one component, and there are times when it takes center stage. But there are many other components to life, and times when those must take precedence. Managing through all those competing components – whether they exist for a reason, a season, or a lifetime – takes a whole lot of love, luck and effort.
“So, surround yourself with people who love and support you, put your head down and your effort into it, and take it a day at a time,” offered McDonough.