Lakeshore Report

Organization Building a “Pipeline of Women Leaders”

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August 8, 2014 – When it comes to professional development, women often have unique needs and challenges. From balancing work and family obligations, to moving up the ranks in traditionally male–dominated professions, many women seek advice from others—both men and women—who have worked through similar challenges. A local corporation is trying to make that mentoring process more accessible in order to sustain a pipeline of women leaders.

A growing body of research suggests that workplace diversity is more than good social policy, it’s also profitable. Organizations such as Forbes Magazine and CNBC have acknowledged a growing number of Fortune 500 companies with women in top leadership roles, and local organizations are no exception.
Stacy Djukic is Manager of Scheduling and Accounting and Energy Supply and Trading for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, or Nipsco. Djukic says the company “lately has put a major focus on inclusion and diversity and really diversifying our workforce and bringing women up in the leadership roles that maybe they historically have not had.”
Catalyst, a non-profit organization dedicated to workplace diversity, estimates that woman make up about 47% of the total workforce, but only hold about 22% of utilities jobs.
Djukic says “It’s tough to get outside your comfort zone. And we feel that we always have to be the best educated, know everything about a topic before we’re willing to take that step in or dip our toe into that water.”
Nipsco is Indiana’s largest provider of natural gas. Djukic has been a member of the company’s Gas Operations Center team for over 20 years.
“I have a lot of outside connections with industry representatives.” Djukic says. “So I’m in a unique position. I have more outside connections versus inside connections, mainly in the utility industry. I would hope to broaden that a little bit and get different service sectors and things like that, that I can get those connections, that if I needed help or needed something or just wanted to bounce some ideas off somebody that maybe would provide me some value and help me reach the end game.”
In 2011, Nipsco’s parent company, NiSource, launched the Developing and Advancing Woman at NiSource Program, or DAWN. Members tour various divisions of the company’s operations and participate in peer mentoring and networking activities. Djukic, a member of the group says it gives women an avenue, and mentors who have climbed the corporate ladder already to “help give them some suggestions, support them in their effort, give them guidelines and rules and goals to meet, and help them kinda push them along the way.”
Djukic believes Nipsco recognizes the value of a diverse workforce, and the company is dedicated to increasing leadership opportunities for women.
“We’ve seen an evolution here at Nipsco—since I have been here 23 years—of a focus on developing the women, and not being afraid to ask the questions and even have a male and female mentors,” says Djukic. “If you look at some of the women up in the ranks here at Nipsco, and just getting rid of that (old) protocol, or that fear of being afraid of not knowing the answer. Being able to be a leader, not necessarily managing, but being able to lead people.”

Nipsco is a sponser of Lakeshore Public Media’s Professional Women’s Conference, taking place Thursday, September 18th at the Radisson in Merrillville. For ticket information call 219-756-5656 and ask for Lindsey.
Nipsco is also a sponsor of Lakeshore Report.

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