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Meet the Extraordinary Women in Energy

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It’s International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. We’re celebrating the female scientists, engineers, policy makers and leaders who transformed the energy industry. Women are still vastly unrepresented in energy sector jobs, often outnumbered three to one or more.1 And it gets much worse when you look for women in energy leadership roles. That’s why it’s especially important to hold up the trailblazing women around the world who serve as role models for girls aspiring to a career in energy.

Maria José Nadeau – Chair of the World Energy Council

In 2013, Maria José Nadeau became the first woman to chair the World Energy Council. With a focus on promoting affordable, stable and renewable energy, Nadeau facilitated the world’s dialogue on energy policy across 90 countries and 3,000 organizations, presiding over the UN-accredited body during the genesis of the Paris Climate Accord and a five-year strategy dubbed “Sustainable Energy for All.”

Nadeau is no stranger to being outnumbered by men. She served as a Senior Policy Advisor and Chief of Staff to the Ministers of Energy and Environment of the Government of Quebec. In 1993, she became the first female member of the senior management team at Hydro-Québec, a public electricity utility, where she stayed for over twenty years. Nadeau also sits on several esteemed leadership and policy councils, including:

  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Board on Sustainable Energy for All

  • Advisory Council of the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs and China Energy Fund Committee

  • Advisory Council – Women Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (UEA)

  • Selection committee of Sheik Zayed's Energy Prize

Nadeau understands the value women and minorities can offer. A few years ago, she told The Guardian, “The energy business is in a critical stage… Energy systems are going to develop into something that we do not really know as of now … if you have a group thinking alike from the same background, same age and gender, you will miss those opportunities."

Regina Bynote Jones – General Counsel, Schlumberger Land Rigs

Regina Bynote Jones’ career in the energy industry spans over 20 years with a primary focus on legal support and regulations, and experience in IT, supply chain, operations and client contracts. She currently serves as the General Counsel for Schlumberger Land Rigs, the largest oil field services company in the world. Jones’ work for the company’s Research, Engineering, Manufacturing & Sustaining segment and she liaisons with attorneys around the world to guide the company’s management team on multi-jurisdictional legal and regulatory matters. 

Jones earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law and went on to work for Tenneco Energy, Shell Oil Company and Dynegy Marketing and Trade before landing her position with Schlumberger. She is also a cancer survivor and active volunteer at MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

In a 2012 interview, Jones spoke about the potential challenges women face in the workplace: “There will always be times when you feel like an outlier because you are the woman, the American or the person of a different ethnicity in a group. However, this means that you can turn this situation into an opportunity …  People will remember you when you stand out, but what they remember about you is what is important.”3

Maria Telkes – Founder of Solar Thermal Energy Storage 

Maria Telkes was a Hungarian-American physical chemist and biophysicist innovating with solar and thermoelectric power far before it was fashionable. Telkes earned her PhD in 1925 – among only a handful of women to do so at that time. Her resume includes the most prestigious research institutions: Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Westinghouse Electric, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University College of Engineering, the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development and the University of Delaware.

It was her groundbreaking work on solar energy that earned her the nickname “Sun Queen.”4  Over the course of Telkes’ career, she developed a number of number of solar technologies, including:

  • The first solar powered water-distilling system, used during WWII

  • A solar-powered residential heating system (called “Dover House”)

  • Architecture designed to heat and store solar power

  • A solar oven that could be used worldwide

Though she was ahead of her time, Telkes was well recognized. She won the first Society of Women Engineers Achievement award in 1952 and the Charles Greely Abbot award in 1977 from the American Section of the International Solar Energy Society. Telkes was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012, and is well-remembered by numerous young learners whose schools bear her name.

Lasting Legacies

These women are impressive – and there are thousands like them today, innovating energy technologies, influencing commerce and trade and developing policy. Together with women across many industries, they are diversify workforces, laboratories and boardrooms. Illuminating women’s accomplishments beyond those spaces is also critically important. Women like Maria José Nadeau, Regina Bynote Jones and Maria Telkes give little girls – and the rest of the world – positive, familiar images of who and what women can be. For kids trying to imagine themselves in the world, it just might be as simple as seeing it to be it.




Posted: March 08, 2018