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Thursday, January 11, 2018
Leading the Discussion About Advancing Women at Utilities
Suzanne Surface attending ADVANCE Conference

When Erin Whitehead attended a professional conference focused on career advancement for women at utility companies last fall, she heard from a lot of women whose companies were early in a journey that’s already well underway at NiSource.

“Some of the attendees were from companies which were just starting out at creating an employee resource group for women,” said Erin, Manager of Regulatory Policy for NiSource in Indiana. “It was very powerful for them to hear what we’ve already been doing at NiSource.”

NiSource played a leading role at ADVANCE: The Power Conference for Women in Utilities. Suzanne Surface, Vice President, Customer Value, Corporate Services, and one of our Executive I&D Champions, presented on how female leaders can use their political capital to advance women (and men) in their organizations.

Seeing a senior leader from their own company help lead this conversation was especially impactful for attendees from NiSource.

“It made me even more appreciative of the efforts that NiSource has already made,” said Jacquelyn Lange, Director of Field Safety Technologies. “It was the first time hearing this message for some of the attendees. I felt fortunate to work for a company which is investing in women, and I&D more broadly, and sending people to conferences like this.”

Suzanne offered a look at how NiSource’s focus on recruiting, developing and advancing talented female employees began six years ago with the vision of Carrie Hightman, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Executive I&D Champion, and Violet Sistovaris, NiSource Executive Vice President and President, NIPSCO. These two executives sustained this vision through their ongoing investment of political capital. Their idea evolved from an annual summit for female employees to a multi-faceted approach which today includes our women’s employee resource group, Developing and Advancing Women at NiSource (DAWN), and a formal mentoring program for high-potential female employees. The model was a significant influence on our current mentoring program for underrepresented employees.  
This focus has earned NiSource recognition, including the first-ever Excellence in Women’s Development Award from the Midwest Energy Association earlier this year. And it has made an impression on our employees.

“As a newer leader here at NiSource, senior leaders have provided me with formal and informal opportunities to develop my leadership skills,” said Katie Edman, Manager of Performance Improvement, who also attended the conference. “This is a differentiator. Not all companies invest the time and effort in creating a diverse and inclusive culture.”

“I would recommend NiSource as a great place to work for women,” Erin said. “I’ve had lots of opportunities here. I see the I&D focus in total across the company. I don’t see anyone held back, and I see a huge focus on advancing women at NiSource.”