Ten years ago, a group of women got together over a cocktail to discuss how we could better connect with the women with whom we work. We wanted to create a space where professional women in the energy and environmental fields can gather to exchange ideas and share experiences. We envisioned a place where people can easily meet others who face parallel technical, career, and work-life balance questions. With that vision in mind, NEWIEE was born.
We started off by creating important and interesting content-based panel discussions that ranged from “Nuclear Power Post Fukushima,” to “Future of Electric Vehicles,” to “How to Build an Entrepreneurial Business.” Propelled by the success of those discussions, in 2010, we introduced the NEWIEE awards to shine a spotlight on women who have made significant contributions to our industries in New England, from cleaning up the environment, to setting important policy directions in the region, to mentoring others. We then organized an annual gala to celebrate with our friends and invite others to join us.
Over the last ten years, we have organized numerous panel discussions, big and small, and presented 30 awards to the movers and shakers in our fields. In 2015, we kicked off a “Women Shaping the Agenda” series, inviting the cream of the crop leaders in the industry to discuss and debate the latest policy and business topics in New England. NEWIEE’s annual “Women Shaping the Agenda” event, only in its third year, has attracted more than 200 attendees.
Since we began the organization, we have grown our membership from only a handful of individuals to more than 500 strong across all six New England states. Since 2015, we have organized eight panels of young women to speak to students at colleges and universities through our “NEWIEE on Campus” events, and introduced over 300 students to what we do as professionals in the energy and environmental fields. In 2016, we formally endorsed the western Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapters to ensure that the NEWIEE momentum continues across the region. Some of what the Chapter members have gathered for include: Mentoring Circles; Tours of the Lindt Chocolate, Schiller Biomass, Eversource’s Storm Center, Redhook Brewery, Stonyfield Yogurt, Lef Farms, ESMI Soil Recycling, W M Recycling facility, Throwback Brewery; and many discussions around Sustainable Buildings, RGGI Update, New Hampshire energy policies.
When we first started out, one question we all had was how many women would be drawn to NEWIEE, and whether there were unmet needs that would motivate people to find time in their busy schedules to participate in NEWIEE. The answer was most certainly yes. Ten years later, more than 500 people from across New England attend NEWIEE’s Annual Awards Gala each year, and a robust network of volunteers devote their time and energy to supporting NEWIEE’s programming.
For one of our Board Members, Jacquie Ashmore, joining NEWIEE has provided her with the opportunity to both give and receive career development support: “I got involved in NEWIEE when I first transitioned into working on climate and energy challenges, and when my two children were very young. I was looking for a professional organization that would provide the opportunity to learn more about the substantive issues, to connect with likeminded people and learn about their work, and to provide support as I determined what balances I wanted to strike as a working parent. NEWIEE provided all that – and I have additionally been thrilled to find avenues through NEWIEE to give back to my peers and to nurture junior colleagues.”
The most impressive and humbling experience over these past ten years has been the opportunity to be in the company of my energetic co-board members, volunteers, and friends, who have contributed every bit of their creativity and hard work to establish, improve, and nurture NEWIEE so that we can continue to fulfill our vision: encourage and promote women to actively lead in the energy and environmental fields. I am grateful to all of the greatest minds who work relentlessly to enhance NEWIEE’s reach, value, and experience. Through this ten-year journey, we have made friends and created a strong industry network across New England. Looking forward, I hope that we continue to bring more women into our industries and use our network to help each other succeed. This year, in the spirit of connecting across the region, we celebrate our 10th anniversary!
~ Judy Chang