IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - In celebration of Women's History Month, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is spotlighting women who perform typically male-dominated jobs in the utilities field.
Local News 8's Rachel Fabbi sat down with two of them to discuss how they got started in the field and how they hope more women join them in the industry.
For Nancy Winters, it all stared when she moved in 2000 and got to know one of her new neighbors, who was on the board of directors for Lower Valley Energy in Wyoming.
"We got talking, they were looking for some volunteers for a member advisory committee, so I went on to that. It was just a two or three month thing, the cooperative was trying to get opinions and members about a particular topic," Winters said.
This led her to become closer friends with the woman who had been the chair on the board for almost 20 years.
"She's the one who broke the glass ceiling there. And we talked more and more about the business of the electric cooperative, and when she went to retire, she let me know and she said 'I think you would be perfect for this.'" Winters said.
She wanted a woman to take her place, and the rest is history. Winters has been the board of directors chair for Lower Valley Energy for more than a decade.
She's not the only high ranking woman in the NRECA. Michele Rinn is the human resources senior VP for NRECA.
"I also have the pleasure of working on some of the workforce issues with the members, trying to help look down the road at some of the workforce issues, and try to talk about best practices and some of the things they can do as we think about the next generation of talent," Rinn stated.
Rinn says as many as 20% of their workforce can retire in the next five years if they choose to do so.
"So that's a pipeline fo talent thats a great opportunity to go out and fill with new talent, new ideas, and hopefully we can start to bring more women into the cooperatives, from a leadership level, but also try to bring them into more of the stem programs," Rinn said. "And if you think about the governance of these cooperatives being so close to the community, hopefully, we can also start to increase visibility of women at the board level as well, so they can start to influence the culture."
Rinn estimates 27% of NRECA's 80,000 members are women.