At the helm of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society’s (PES) new strategic Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) program is Guadalupe González, PhD, the national director of electricity at the National Energy Secretariat in Panama and longtime IEEE and PES volunteer in programs that support important D&I initiatives, including Women in Power (WIP) and Women in Engineering (WIE).
Launched early this year, Guadalupe and her team – which includes over 20 students from Panama – are working to gather data from various sources so they can drill down and discover more about IEEE and PES’s members and gain a better understanding of the organization(s) as a whole.
“There has been a gap in the type of information we have regarding diversity and inclusion, which we are working hard to address. By doing so we will be able to learn more about the diversity of our members. It’s a big job because IEEE PES is global and we have a lot of information to gather,” she explained. “But the potential benefits for the future once we have it are huge.”
Guadalupe completed her bachelor’s at the Universidad Tecnologica de Panama and her doctoral studies at Texas A&M University in the United States. It was during her undergraduate years that she first learned about IEEE and PES when one of her professors began giving her research responsibilities focusing on the science of engineering.
With the completion of her PhD studies, Guadalupe stepped up her PES volunteer activities in a big way when she became the vice president, and then president, of the Panama PES Chapter and Panama section. She also took on the role of PES representative of Central America and started WIP in Region 9.
When asked why she feels it is so important to give back and be involved in IEEE and PES initiatives like the D&I program, she replied, “Because I am a woman and have seen firsthand the challenges that my peers are tackling every day. Also, I’m an inquisitive person and am always interested in learning how someone came to be where they are. I talk to people a lot about their journeys and have seen how different it can be for women from different countries to reach their goals.”
She continued, “In order to change this, you have to provide tools and opportunities so more people can have a way to showcase their abilities. There are so many people with potential in places that we simply haven’t reached yet, and we can – and should – work to open doors for them. I’ve seen and am an example of that, and it’s what I want to do for other people as much as I can.”
While the D&I initiative is at the very beginning, Guadalupe noted that it has the full backing of the governing board and she is encouraged by other initiatives, such as WIP, that have become examples of the progress that can be made when targeted support and encouragement are provided.
“WIP has been growing very fast and has a lot of members, and they are not just women,” she said. “In the same vein, IEEE and PES are not American or European societies – we are worldwide, so we need to continue involving more people from Latin America, Africa, and Asia.”
Guadalupe and her team also plan to reach out to members to listen to their stories and hear their thoughts and ideas on ways to improve D&I outreach more broadly.
“We want to know what they would like us to do and address any questions they may have,” she said. “We want to know what they have to say.”
Guadalupe further noted that a lot of the team’s efforts will be focused on education.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” she said. “You can have two people sitting next to each other in a classroom, and they are each going to have a totally different experience based on their background and upbringing. This is something I have experienced firsthand as well when I have talked about these issues and been told they don’t exist. Maybe for some they don’t, but for others these issues are very real.”
She continued, “If we can talk about it, if we can open more doors, that in the end is what I am looking to do. We are on a good track; as a group we acknowledge that there is a problem, and this program was created to help address it. We will use the data we are gathering today to create polices that will provide benefits for all of our members tomorrow, and I’m very proud to be a part of that.”