Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum


Click to review the 2018 FWELF Agenda.

The third Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum was held at the Henderson Beach Resort & Spa in Destin, Florida on November 7 through 9, 2018. This event gathered women and men for a three-day event with keynote addresses and panel discussions regarding opportunities in Florida’s energy industry.

With the destruction that was brought by Hurricane Michael just a month before the forum, we kicked off the first day by paying homage to the leadership teams and frontline workers of the many utility companies and first-responders that sacrificed their time and lives to restore not only services, but hope to the communities affected. In doing so, Gunster presented our title sponsor Gulf Power, with a donation to benefit the company’s staff and line workers. Gulf Power’s Stan Connally, was joined by his team on stage to graciously accept this contribution. Stan officially opened the forum by welcoming the nearly 200 people in attendance and introducing Robin Boren, Gulf Power’s Chief Financial Officer, for the first keynote address, in which Robin discussed how to use wisdom to navigate a career  path.

This was a perfect transition into the panel discussion, tailored specifically for our student attendees, about the job opportunities that exist in the industry. The panel was moderated by Gunster’s Ronald Brisé and panelists included Carolyn Bermudez of Florida City Gas, Jennifer Grove of Gulf Power, Dr. Randy Hanna of Florida State University, Kimberly Moore of Tallahassee Community College, and Shenna M. Payne, of  West Florida High School. Michelle Ubben and Karen Cyphers of Sachs Media Group followed this discussion with a keynote presentation on how the industry can utilize the power of messaging in encouraging potential workforce to consider energy as a career option. The final keynote presentation of the day, led by Carolyn Gosselin with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, provided an overview about Florida’s changing economic, demographic, and political landscape as it relates to the industry.

We closed the evening with a networking reception followed by a dinner, where all energy industry leaders and stakeholders met and conversed with students from colleges and universities from around the state.

Peter Bogin from Korn Ferry began the second day with alarming statistics on the lack of diversity in boards of directors and how to remedy this by appointing diverse leaders.  Lisa Johnson of Seminole Electric Cooperative then took the stage to offer her advice on embracing change in this ever-evolving industry. The audience also learned about Wall Street’s expectation and support of technology investment in the energy sector from a panel of financial experts, including moderator Stephanie Pendleton from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and panelists Eileen Baines from CoBank, Melissa Dykes from JEA, and Michael Haggarty from Moody’s Investors Service.

Attendees then had the option of joining one of two breakout sessions. One session consisted of a panel of attorneys, discussing how legal backgrounds are applied to the energy field. Commissioner Andrew Fay of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) moderated the discussion between Kathryn Christian from Duke Energy Florida, Beth Keating from Gunster, and  Maria Moncada from Florida Power & Light.  The second session, moderated by PSC Chairman Art Graham, explored careers in engineering. The women in the panel included LaQuitta Ghent from Duke Energy, former astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger from Geosyntec, Ivette Sanchez from POWER Engineers, and Shelley Scarborough from Gulf Power.

Afterward, attendees gathered for lunch, where Lila Jaber presented a gift to the Wisdom In Energy honorees, a group of twelve remarkable women recognized for rising through the ranks of leadership and making a positive impact in the industry. PSC Commissioner Julie Brown also addressed the attendees during lunch to provide five proverbs for wisdom in energy.

The day continued strong with a panel discussion on innovation and technology moderated by Holly Henderson who was joined by Robert Bennet from Emera Technologies LLC, LaMargo Sweezer-Fischer from NextEra Energy, Leslie Sibert from Southern Company, Susan Fernandez from Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, and Jacob Williams from Florida Municipal Power Agency.

Next, Pamela Rauch spoke about the changing current in innovation in energy. The second day concluded with a panel discussion on why women are well-suited for stakeholder engagement by moderator Shannon Pierce from Nicor Gas and panelists Cynthia Clemmons from Lakeland Electric, Paula Cobb from Duke Energy, Laura Crouch from TECO Energy, and Sandy Sims from Gulf Power.

The final day was opened with a keynote presentation by Haskell’s Tiffany Shaw on the water-energy nexus. This was followed by Sue Kelly’s inspiring keynote about perseverance in a male-dominated workforce.  Attendees received a glimpse of the prominent issues that would be tackled during the upcoming legislative session from state House Representatives Ramon Alexander and Jay Trumbull and former Senator Charlie Clary  in a panel discussion moderated by Gunster’s Joanna Bonfanti.  The audience also learned how to better engage customers in a panel of experts including SaLisa Berrien from COI Energy, Becca Boles from Gulf Power, Barbara Higgins from Duke Energy, Jennifer Porter from City of Tallahassee, and Zayne Smith from AARP Florida and moderator PSC Commissioner Gary Clark.

The forum ended with a call to action by Lila Jaber, where she urged all attendees to continue these conversations beyond the forum and pay it forward by mentoring students and women interested in entering the energy workforce.

Survey Findings

  • 165 attendees
  • 100% of attendees said that 2018 FWELF met or exceeded their expectations with the overall program and theme.
  • 100% said that the speakers met or exceeded their expectations.
  • 83% said that the value of 2018 FWELF met or exceeded their expectations.
  • 94% said the location met or exceeded their expectations.
  • 100% said they learned new information from 2018 FWELF.


Click to review the 2017 FWELF Agenda.

With the second Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL on June 14 – 16, 2017, we brought together leaders of the energy industry, regulators, policy makers, and students alike.

The Forum particularly highlighted leadership in many facets of Florida’s energy industry, from the chief executives to every division of a company, as all continued the conversation on how best to sustain an industry that provides so much opportunity for Florida’s continued economic growth. The focus was on many of the topics that 2016 FWELF participants had requested to learn more about: women on energy boards, purposeful inclusion and workplace diversity, and organization entrepreneurship. The 2017 FWELF participants had the opportunity to meet leaders in the industry that exemplify the highest standards of leadership, serving as role models for their companies and for the great state of Florida.

After a welcome and presentation by Gunster Regional Managing Shareholder and FWELF Founder Lila A. Jaber on PICCH (Patience, Integrity, Compassion, Character, and Humility) leadership, the Forum started with its first panel:  “Women on the Board – Taking a Seat at the Table” moderated by Carolyn Gosselin, Senior Vice President of Development at the Florida Chamber. The “Perspectives of Wall Street” panel discussion steered by Xia Liu, VP and CFO of Gulf Power, followed, featuring leaders of various finance groups who shared more from their vantage points information about the importance of access to capital.

The Honorable Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, delivered the keynote address of the first day of 2017 FWELF. Afterwards, he took the time to engage in close conversations with current and emerging leaders of the industry, including students aspiring towards a career in energy.

The second day commenced with presentations by Gordon L. Gillette, President and CEO of the Tampa Electric Company and Florida Operations, and Scott Horton, Owner of Delta Concepts, Inc. The first shared thoughts on leadership and diversity from a Florida stakeholder’s perspective, while the latter explored the foundations of unconscious bias that may exist in the workplace.

With an eye towards the success of the energy industry, innovation was encouraged during the “Internalizing Innovation within Your Organization” panel discussion led by Roseann Harrington, VP of Marketing, Communications, Community Relations, and Economic Development at OUC. Industry leaders Pamela Rauch, Aleida Socarras, Holly Henderson, and T.J. Szelistowski contributed stories and observations from their experiences as they moved the conversation onwards. The success of our students, too, was a focal point during the Forum, especially in the “Strategies to Support Students with Career Goals in Energy” panel discussion. The Honorable Ronald Brise, PSC Commissioner, engaged leaders from Florida colleges as well as the Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Cissy Proctor, in a discourse on how we can best prepare our students for the energy workforce.

Scott Balfour, COO of Emera, delivered the midday keynote address before the “Developing Your Leadership Brand” workshop was facilitated by Cari Haught Coats, Executive Director of the Center for Advance Entrepreneurship at Rollins College. One of the highlights of the day came through the exchange amongst Pamela Rauch, The Honorable Julie Brown, and Shannon Pierce as the industry leaders and regulator shared personal experiences on the subject to share their own “personal brand” best practices.

With his intellect and expertise, Tom Fanning, Chairman, President, and CEO of Southern Company, gave attendees much to think about through his “Building the Future of Energy” keynote presentation. With their minds ready to consider areas of opportunity, the attendees took in a tremendous dialogue about “Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace” led by Melvin D. Williams, President of Nicor Gas and SVP of Southern Company Gas. Next came the consideration of another area of opportunity as PSC Commissioner Art Graham steered the “Operational Challenges with the Technology in the Industry” panel to explore ways of enhancing technology to increase overall efficiency.

The Honorable Joe Negron, President of the Florida Senate, participated in the final day of the Forum with the delivery of his keynote address. Panel discussions on “Energy Mix – Shifting and Merging with Advancements in Energy” and “Energy-Food-Water Nexus” followed, being led by former House Speaker Will Weatherford of Weatherford Partners and Amy Albury, Director of Environmental Relations and Sustainability, of Florida Power & Light, respectively.

Having been designed to inform, inspire, and motivate further interest in the energy industry to further attract talent in an already tremendous workforce, the Forum came to a satisfactory close as participants, panelists, and speakers alike expressed their eagerness for this platform to continue forward.

Survey Findings

  • 235 attendees
  • 82% of attendees said that 2017 FWELF exceeded their expectations with the overall program and theme.
  • 90% said that the speakers included exceeded their expectations.
  • 83% said that the value of 2017 FWELF exceeded their expectations.
  • Around 74% said the location exceeded their expectations.
  • 68% said they learned new information from 2017 FWELF.

2016 FWELF: the inaugural forum

Energy Leading the Way in Economic and Workforce Development

Click to review the 2016 FWELF Agenda.

The inaugural Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum was held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida on April 14 – 15, 2016. This first-of-its-kind event gathered women and men nationwide for a two-day event with keynote addresses and panel discussions regarding opportunities in Florida’s energy industry.

The first day of the forum kicked off with a video presentation highlighting the Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum, its sponsors, and a few of the participating speakers. The first presentation was by the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Pamela Rauch and Tony Carvajal, relaying statistical information on Florida’s economy and opportunity. The following panel discussion “Let’s Have a Conversation With…” included Southern Company’s Kimberly Greene, Pivotal Home Solution’s Robin Boren, and Duke Energy’s Gayle Lanier. The panel was facilitated by Gunster’s Chairman and former United States Senator George S. LeMieux. The speakers were insightful using experience and humor to showcase leadership and outstanding careers. Later in the evening, guests had the opportunity to network and mingle during the Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum Reception, followed by a welcome dinner with remarks from Gunster’s Managing Shareholder, Bill Perry, and Gulf Power Company’s CEO, Stan Connally. Seating during the dinner was strategically arranged so that the participating students would have a chance to sit next to industry executives.

The last day of the forum was a full day of panels and discussions, starting with a keynote address from the Chair of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Julie I. Brown. Chairman Brown focused on the specific challenges and opportunities in Florida’s energy industry. The following panel was moderated by PSC Commissioner Lisa P. Edgar, and included representatives from Gulf Power, AGL Resources Inc., Seminole Electric Cooperative, Emera, and Florida Public Utilities Company. Ann Randazzo, Executive Director of the Center for Energy Workforce Development, joined us to provide data points of the energy industry, and where women and the next generation fit in to that equation. This was followed by a panel discussion on “Communicating Effectively in This New Age of Technology,” which included several marketing and communications executives from Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, Gulf Power, and Orlando Utilities Commission – The Reliable One.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Colette Honorable, as the lunch keynote speaker, provided a national perspective on issues that impact the Florida energy industry’s capacity and infrastructure needs. A natural leader, she provided her own perspective on the needs and issues facing the energy industry today. A panel discussion on “Utility Transformation: The Impact on the Community, Environment, Jobs and Alternative Energy” included moderator, Kelley Smith Burk, Director of the Office of Energy, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Panel participants included representatives from EarthSTEPS, Duke Energy, and TFC Utilities. The final panels of the day covered facilitating jobs in energy, as well as economic development, trade and job creation. The two final panels included representatives from Gulf Power, Florida City Gas, City of Tallahassee, Florida Power and Light, TECO Energy, Florida Public Utilities Company, and Advanced Disposal.

Survey Findings 

  • 176 attendees
  • 92% of attendees said that 2016 FWELF exceeded their expectations with the overall program and theme.
  • 90% said that the speakers included exceeded their expectations.
  • 83% said that the value of 2016 FWELF exceeded their expectations.
  • Around 53% said the location exceeded their expectations.