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By Jessica Harris, Senior Human Resources Manager

Earlier this month, we kicked off our highlight of March as Women’s History Month. We are discussing an issue that has only recently been getting needed attention: succession planning for women in the energy sector. Succession planning is crucial for every company, but it is especially key for energy and utility companies, which will see many of the baby boomers who make up the majority of the workforce retire in the near future. Women only make up 14 percent of senior management and 13 percent of the C-suite level. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy has reported an industry wide difficulty in filling management positions. These are positions that need to be filled to bridge the gap that is left from the exodus of baby boomers from the industry. This presents a fantastic opportunity for companies to truly commit to gender diversity initiatives, simultaneously widening the candidate pool.

It is crucial for workplaces that want to stay ahead to provide encouragement and guidance for women to climb the corporate ladder. It is especially important when studies like MSCI’s “Women On Boards” show that companies that have strong female leadership generate a Return on Equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without. However, many companies see women exit their careers at an earlier rate than their male counterparts. Why is this, and what can be done to prevent it?

Today’s leadership must answer this question for tomorrow’s success. We must adapt and bring every demographic into the fold. Access to mentors and leadership in an organization is an integral part of succession planning. Employees need first-hand experience dealing with matters that are unfamiliar to them before they can assume the responsibilities of a higher role. However, per the Women in the Workplace study, only 51 percent of women in senior management report they interact with a company leader at least once a week, compared to 62 percent of men. Not only this, but it was found that although women ask for feedback as often as men, they are less likely to receive it.

Obviously, there are many different factors that go into grooming the next generation of leadership. But access to managers and regular feedback are the low hanging fruit when dealing with gender equality and succession planning initiatives. They are an easy start that can create a strong foundation for companies to build on.

As a relatively young company TerraPower must seek ways to ensure longevity and stability. Committing to gender equality initiatives in leadership is a smart and efficient way to work towards this mission. The result will lead to innovative ideas, a fresh set of eyes on industry issues and an invigorated workforce.