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#WomenInSTEM: Advancing Our Energy Future with STEM Mentorships

October 17, 2014 - 1:23pm

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Watch the video above to meet Karen Lefkowitz, the the latest profile in Energy.gov's #WomenInSTEM video series. | Video by Matty Greene, Energy Department.

I’ve been on the job for just two weeks, and one thing is already clear: The Department of Energy solves tough problems.

What is also clear is that tackling our country’s most pressing energy and national security challenges -- from global climate change to nuclear proliferation -- requires all hands on deck. Our country can only reach its full potential by ensuring the participation of every talented American, including women and minorities.

Through our close partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Energy Department is leading the way in supporting the advancement of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the energy sector. I am committed to deploying the Department’s resources to inspire, connect and train women, girls and minorities in STEM fields, and to ensure that women in the Energy Department’s workforce have access to opportunities for mentoring and professional advancement.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Karen Lefkowitz, the latest profile in Energy.gov’s #WomenInSTEM video series. You can meet Karen and learn about her work by watching the video above.

Karen began her career in information technology, but decided to transition to the energy sector -- a place where she felt she could have an impact that improved the environment and people’s lives. In her current role as Vice President of Business Transformation at Pepco Holdings Inc., an electric utility that provides power to the National Capital region, Karen works to improve 2 million customers’ electrical service every day.

Part of Karen’s job is to oversee the mass deployment of advanced meter infrastructure, including smart meters, throughout Pepco’s service area. This Energy Department-supported project allows customers to better manage their personal daily energy consumption, which is a win-win solution -- helping them save money by saving energy.

A smarter grid also means that if a tree falls on a Pepco electric line, automated systems immediately identify which customers have lost power. The automated systems Karen helped build can often choose new routes around a downed line, so that power is restored to some customers even before the first repair truck starts rolling.

As an active mentor, Karen encourages more women to join STEM fields -- and encourages more of her colleagues to serve as mentors for the next generation. The fact is that men are much more likely than women to have a STEM-focused job, regardless of educational attainment. Women make up 48 percent of the U.S. workforce but just 24 percent of STEM workers.

Looking back on where she started, Karen says, “I remember being that only woman 30 years ago.” She continues, “I didn’t get to where I am today without other people helping me. You have to reach out to girls and model behavior for them. You have to invite them in.”

I invite you to watch Karen’s video to hear the rest of her story. And check out the rest of our #WomenInSTEM video profiles, which offer inspiring advice from remarkable women tackling some of the nation’s most pressing energy challenges.

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