Florida-based business law firm Gunster, joined by a group of energy industry leaders, this week hosted its inaugural Women in Energy Leadership Forum.
The event, held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, brought together women and men from across the state for two days of keynote addresses and panel discussions about relevant issues facing Florida’s energy industry.
Among the attendees were thought-leaders, stakeholders, industry executives and college students gathered for an engaging dialogue about the state of the energy sector.
“In highlighting what the energy industry has done to grow Florida’s economy, we hope to inform and inspire the next generation of workforce talent,” said Lila Jaber, past chair of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) and leader of Gunster’s government affairs law and lobbying practice. “Participants had the unique opportunity to engage in a wide breadth of topics impacting Florida’s energy industry and learn from many women in energy who are leading the way for their companies.”
Keynote speakers included Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Colette Honorable, who provided a national perspective on issues impacting the Florida energy industry, its capacity and infrastructure needs.
Panels covered a variety of issues, challenges and opportunities in the energy industry to meet the growing demand of the third-fastest growing state while creating jobs in today’s energy market.
“The opportunity to meet and engage with other industry peers, many who have been trailblazers in the energy industry, was inspiring,” said Xia Liu, vice president and CFO for Gulf Power. “This is an exciting time in our industry and learning from one another helps us all serve our customers better — today, and in the future.”
Panel member Nancy Tower, who serves as chief corporate development officer of Emera Inc., addressed the audience: “Clean energy and environmental requirements are driving tremendous change in the sector. They are also generating opportunities for innovative companies and economic growth for communities. I was pleased to be part of such a constructive dialogue — one that focused on solutions and turning challenges into opportunities.”
Aleida Socarras, AVP Marketing and Energy Logistics for Florida Public Utilities Company indicated the conference created momentum for further conversation.
“I was inspired and energized by the thoughtful and frank insights shared by so many accomplished women leaders,” Socarras said. “This conference gave us an opportunity to share ideas and learn how others have successfully helped their companies and personal lives flourish. I would love to see work groups come together to continue the conversation on the challenges identified by our speakers. You walk out of a conference like this feeling nothing is impossible. Let’s keep it going.”
Nearly a dozen college students from across the state were invited to attend to learn about the state of the energy industry and to understand the potential it holds for them.
Whitney Jacobs, a student at the University of Florida, thought the conference was exceptional.
“Unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in the energy industry,” said Jacobs. “However, the Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum showcased that leaders are working to change this situation, and I was honored to be a guest among them in Orlando when they discussed strategies for change. In addition to empowering women forward, the event linked female students with potential employers. It opened my eyes to an array of career paths in the energy sector. Without a doubt, my expectations going into the conference were far exceeded.”
The Leadership Forum was convened by Gunster’s government affairs law and lobbying practice, comprised of legislative lobbyists, attorneys, consultants and political analysts. The team provides a range of services in the areas of legislative counsel and consulting, PSC regulatory counsel and general administrative and regulatory law.