Sustainable Energy & Women's Leadership in Jamaica | Omega

Kelly Tomblin, CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company, describes her inspiration for the Women in Energy Conference: Doing Power Differently. 

Omega: How were you impacted during your weekend at the Women & Power Retreat? What was the lasting takeaway? 

Kelly: As a leader and member of the energy industry, the theme "Doing Power Differently” really hit a cord. The takeaways were many. Talk about what you are afraid of and have a practice that brings it to the fore. Open up a space for others to confront, wrestle with, and move beyond the fear. My favorite image was Liz Gilbert saying, “fear—you can ride in the car with me, but you can’t drive.”

The experience reminded me that I am bold and that boldness is a necessary ingredient of movement from one place to another, and to embrace that. Also, the lack of a corporate presence made me think about what was possible in that arena. Finally, the reaffirmation of “sisterhood.” Like a lot of corporate women, I had steered away from the idea of sisterhood, embracing the notion that “I am not one of them.” But I am clearly one of them…and am proud and honored to be one. 

Omega: Why did you feel compelled to plan your own program with a "Do Power Differently" theme? 

Kelly: As we say in Jamaica, “Bwoy, I am not getting any younger, so I best make my big move now.” So many of us know we can have a greater impact but think small in our quiet hours, or that it is just too much work. But after being with women from across the Caribbean and U.S. and hearing their (often horror) stories, I was changed and reminded of what I had endured. But more than that—what potential we have! I was blown away by what my young women put together when given the opportunity and saw how their hearts longed for leaders to "Do Power Differently." I felt a sense of honor and duty simultaneously. The need to “Do Power Differently” and the double entendre was hard to resist. 

The theme of Women in Energy: Doing Power Differently resonated with everyone I talked to because it calls upon us, as we take the mantle in this industry, to rethink and often reject what we have seen. When I asked the question, “How are you doing power differently?” no one hesitated. It was like Brené Brown (vulnerability) meets Einstein (everyone is a genius). Corporations and institutions can be the most toxic places on earth…or they can be a place of healing and growth—leadership and culture determine which.  

Omega: What was the program meant to address and how did it go?

Kelly: The theme was "Passion, Power, and Promise" and our goals were to help women discover what is in their hearts, what excites them, what their gifts are, and how to bring it all together to make a positive impact. We discussed what women do to cause our own pain and some practical strategies for living more fully. Leaders in pain are toxic. Of course, we also wanted to reimagine the energy sector (wind, water, sun, economic prosperity) and expand the definition of “energy.”  

We did it our own way from start to finish and the program was wildly successful. More than 350 attended and we had to turn people away. We received a 98% satisfaction rating and many people said to me that their lives were changed forever. A magazine was published with the event and the minister of energy came directly after he was sworn in. Because of the conference, I was invited to a webinar with Chelsea Clinton and took a young women mentee to New York for the event.

Omega: What is the most important contribution women have to make in the energy sector?

Kelly: Women are returning the industry to the customer and they are bringing Mother Earth deeply into the conversation. All work gets done in relationships—we are bringing that reality to the front and banning the term “soft skills” from our vocabulary. We are also asserting wellness into corporate goals as a business imperative. Because women tend to be long-term thinkers, we are helping the industry see that “when the world does well, we will do well”—in areas of energy efficiency for instance. You can’t outrun the economy in which you live. It really serves both the industry and the consumers to think holistically and globally.

Our industry suffers from a lack of diversity in all ways—not just gender—which has stifled the progress that can form a foundation of prosperity, economic development, and wellness. Those of us who now lead can change this reality and we haven’t pushed enough. It’s unfortunate that 20 years into my experience we are still talking about this.

Omega: How do you feel you'll keep evolving this event and your understanding gained from the retreat?

Kelly: We have announced the dates and a larger venue for next year’s events and are lining up sponsors. Several local events, our web series, and a daily Whats App group are underway. The big learning was “get out of the way”—let young people do their work—and respect the culture. But the real magic is that the conversation is still strong months after the conference. That will continue to push it forward. 

Omega: Do you see relationships between issues of environmental "power" when it comes to energy and corporations, and the issues of "Women & Power"?

Kelly: There is a big misunderstanding around goals for environmental power, if you mean Mother Earth. As more diverse voices lead energy companies, we become less conflicted in our real concern about the impact of our actions. We will always have to manage the balance of affordability, sustainability, and the security for the energy sector, so we need to advocate for all three. The energy industry grew up without concern for either women or the environment. Now we have to reimagine the roles of both in the sector, which is changing dramatically. The power of environmental concerns and the re-engaged power of women have real opportunity to be at the head of the board room now.

Omega: What does the phrase #DoPowerDifferently mean to you?

Kelly: The above picture sheds “some light” on what it means. But to enumerate it: 1. Knowing that power is infinite—and that the more you give it away the more you have. 2. Admitting when you are wrong or you don’t know. 3. Using the word love…and meaning it. 4. Crying and laughing and being exactly who you are and giving everyone the space to do the same. 5. Believing in everyone’s genius. 6. Bringing your true strength to each conversation. 7. Expecting the best…and getting it.

© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies