Women in Leadership – Virtual Kick-Off Meeting (May 13-14)

The utility energy workforce is typically only about 25 percent women, as compared to the general population where women make up roughly half of the total workforce. Organizational efficiency is characterized by a balanced workforce both in terms of skill sets and perspectives. This mentorship program addresses some of the opportunities and challenges that women face working in the energy industry, advocates for workplace inclusion and teamwork, and discusses critical issues related to attracting and maintaining a diverse workforce. Formal opportunities for mentorship provide women in the industry with support for increased retention and satisfaction. Mentors and mentees are matched up across companies, and then connect over an eight month period with two in-person meetings, once at an executive forum in May and once at the WEI Annual Meeting in September.

Register Now

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Melinda Rogers, NW Natural invited

    • Who Should Attend
    • Mentors consist of female executives including utility company presidents, vice presidents, general managers and senior directors who have significant experience in the utility industry and an in-depth understanding of various utility functions. 

      Mentees consist of female directors, managers, supervisors and front-line employees who want to develop their leadership skills, gain a broad perspective of the utility industry, and discuss workplace challenges for experiential learning.

      Space is limited. Participants will be invited to register after being accepted to the program via the application process. Service company mentors and mentees also encouraged to apply. 

      WEI has several programs supporting diversity and inclusion in the utility industry. For more information about WEI’s Women in Energy Symposium, visit 

  • Registration Options
  • Western Energy Institute takes the health and safety of our employees and members very seriously. With safety as our top priority, this program is being offered in a virtual format. No hotel or travel is required. If you have any questions, please contact the Program Manager directly.

    Member: $1,399 USD

    Registration includes mentoring materials, registration for the Kick-Off Executive Forum and Annual Meeting (includes all specified meals).

    Space is limited and applications must be submitted and accepted before participants are given access to registration. View more program information including a timeline for applications and program here.

    Mentor Application available here.
    Mentee Application available here.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • WEI will be waiving the standard cancellation policy for this program and other programs occurring in March, April, May, and June 2020. Registrants can receive a full refund of their fee if requested up to the day before the program occurs for increased flexibility due to the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation. This applies both to new and existing registrations. This also applies to any registration fees paid for virtual program formats.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public. Recording is not permitted for any portion of the event.
  • For more information contact Diana Zoren, Director of Strategic Initiatives at (971) 255-4965.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Check-In + Test Equipment

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Welcome and Introduction

Get to know the other mentors and mentees of the 2020 Women in Leadership Portland Cohort. Attendees are encouraged to share their background in the energy industry and individual goals for what they hope to get out of the program.

2:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Mentoring Success Case Study

A mentor and mentee from 2019 Women in Leadership Mentorship program will share their insights on getting the best value from your relationship as a Mentor and Mentee.

3:00 PM - 3:15 PM


3:15 PM - 4:15 PM

Strategies for Successful Mentoring
Speaker(s): Deb Affonsa, Vice President, Customer Service, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Learn best practices for working with your mentor or mentee from an energy executive.

4:15 PM - 5:00 PM

Mentor + Mentee Kickoff Session

Mentors and mentees will have an opportunity meet one another one-on-one during this time. Use this time to share your goals, expectation from this mentorship and start the process of working on your plans. 

5:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Adjourn for the day

Thursday, May 14, 2020

7:45 AM - 8:00 AM

Prep for the day

8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Executive Panel: Experiential Learning + Promoting Diversity
Moderator(s): Melinda Rogers, Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer, NW Natural
Panelist(s): John Hairston, Chief Operating Officer, Bonneville Power Administration, Eric DeBonis, Senior Vice President, Operations, Southwest Gas Corporation, MardiLyn Saathoff, Sr. Vice President Regulatory & General Counsel, NW Natural
Speaker(s): Kellie Cloud, Director, Substation & Grid Integration, Portland General Electric

A panel of male and female executives will join us for a discussion on navigating the traditionally male-dominated utility industry. Hear about their journey, lessons learned, and how they leveraged mentors, coaches, and sponsors along the way. There will be an opportunity for the panel members to respond to questions from the audience at the end of the facilitated portion.

9:30 AM - 9:45 AM


9:45 AM - 10:30 AM

Mentorship Expectations Breakouts

During this session mentors and mentees will participate in breakout groups and engage in roundtable conversation. Mentors will discuss best practices around providing feedback, expectations of mentees, program specific goals, and leveraging the mentoring relationship for future growth. Mentees will discuss expectations for mentors, receiving feedback, and how to leverage the mentoring relationship for development.

10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Mentorship Expectations Debrief

Mentors and mentees will come back to the table and each group will share what they discussed and learned in the breakout session. We will conclude the session with a group dialogue around best practices and expectations of the mentoring relationship.

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Logistics Overview + Next Steps

WEI will share logistics of the next steps for the remainder of the mentoring program, including a best practices discussion about networking.

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Developing Your Agreement

Scheduled time – Mentors and mentees will have a mentoring session around developing a mentoring agreement and plan for next steps. Program goals, follow up sessions, and topics for future meetings will be discussed.


This event will now be held in a virtual format. Hotel and travel arrangements will not be required to attend.

If you previously made hotel reservations for this event and need to cancel them, we’ve included the contact information for the hotel below for your convenience. If you have additional questions about this event, please contact the Program Manager directly.

The Duniway Portland, A Hilton Hotel
545 SW Taylor
Portland, OR 97204
Phone: (503) 553-7000

Meet The Speakers

Deb Affonsa

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Vice President, Customer Service

John Hairston

Bonneville Power Administration

Chief Operating Officer

Eric DeBonis

Southwest Gas Corporation

Senior Vice President, Operations

MardiLyn Saathoff

NW Natural

Sr. Vice President Regulatory & General Counsel

Kellie Cloud

Portland General Electric

Director, Substation & Grid Integration

Melinda Rogers

NW Natural

Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer