I have spent most of my career in the male-dominated electric utility industry. When I joined the company in 1974, white men held almost all of our exempt, or white-collar, jobs. As our communities changed, so did our work force. We now have about 26 percent minorities and nearly 22 percent women in our company. Of our officers, 23 percent are minorities, and 23 percent are women.

Georgia power has worked hard to increase female representation in the workplace and in leadership. Fortunately, I had mentors, managers, and friends—male and female, black and white—who helped me achieve my goals.

A real “tipping point” in my career came after I was encouraged to step into a role I had not prepared for. I found myself leading a group of long-term professional employees. I had to put my leadership skills to work at the highest level. I did not pretend to have their skills, but rather I let them do their jobs while focusing on the larger issues in leading the department. They respected that, and I believe it paid off. Let’s be clear: you will make mistakes; but being afraid to make decisions gets you and your organization nowhere.

My experiences have led me to help others in turn. as a female officer, and the first female officer with children, I feel a special responsibility to help other women employees achieve their goals and objectives. In fact, mentoring is a major part of the legacy I want to leave. It’s not always easy. It can take a lot of time to build the trust and relationships necessary to get below the surface issues. In today’s culture, however, that is gradually becoming easier. I find many of the employees I mentor now are like sponges. They soak up everything you tell them, as long as you are being candid and relevant. Most want to hear it straight—with tact, of course—but without pretense.

Mentoring is an investment; 20 minutes at the end of the day rarely works. The discussions involved sometimes take several hours, but they are worth it. I want to make Georgia Power strong today and tomorrow. You make a company strong with strong employees, and you make strong employees one at a time.