Omega in Action | Omega

Omega in Action

Omega in Action highlights inspiring people and organizations making meaningful change. From protecting the environment to empowering women, healing veterans, and serving nonprofits, you'll find fresh perspectives, trending news, and the latest information on noteworthy events here at Omega and around the world.

Juno Resident's Work Appears in New York Times

1 week 4 days ago

Rejuvenation and restoration are not just about self-care—they're also integral to our capacity for service in our communities. This was true for Heidi Hutner, one of 36 recipients of the Omega Women's Leadership Center's (OWLC) Juno Women's Leadership Residency in 2016.

Heidi, whose work is focused on the topics of caring for Earth, animals, and people, is the director of the Sustainability Studies Program at Stony Brook University. Her TEDx talk, Eco-Grief and Ecofeminism, traces her journey of personal loss and healing into environmental studies and activism. During her time on Omega's Rhinebeck campus, Heidi found herself surprised by how easily her agenda for her residency slipped away, and how she was able to attend to deeper needs. "I thought I would write a lot at Omega, but instead, I rested. Attending the nurturing program at Juno gave me the time to breathe. To exhale. To relax. To heal. The result of this healing surprised me greatly. I was so recharged, that my first article for the New York Times would soon be published in the weeks after I left Omega." 
That article, "A Conservationist’s Call for Humans to Curb Harms to Our Animal Kin," highlights a conversation between Heidi and Carl Sarafina first conducted for her web interview series, Coffee with Hx2. Carl is the author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, which explores the scientific research and cultural reasoning around reassessing human's relationships to the natural, sentient world. Heidi has also written several pieces on women climate scientists and women's indigenous activism related to the Dakota pipeline.  
Heidi was able to bring the restoration of her time at Omega home to re-examine aspects of her life that needed clearing and cleansing. "I am more focused and able to narrow down my interests and help others in a more beneficial way. My heart is more open because much has cleared—the Juno Women's Leadership Residency helped me to declutter my insides! This decluttering has also helped me in my activist community projects. I left Omega healed, whole, and wide awake."

Women & Children Touched By Cancer Find Haven

2 weeks 5 days ago

Support, connect, and help lighten hearts—these are the simple goals of Camp Lightheart, an overnight children’s camp for those who have a mom with breast cancer or who have lost their mothers to breast cancer. 

Camp Lightheart was launched in 2007 on Omega’s Rhinebeck campus and has returned each year since. This August, 18 children participated in the camp and more than 150 children have attended over the past 10 years.  

The camp was created by Breast Cancer Options, the largest community-based organization providing free breast cancer services in the Hudson Valley area and one of the few organizations giving direct support to children of women diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Offered free to participants, the camp is an opportunity for children to meet others going through similar experiences.

"Words cannot express how grateful all of us at Breast Cancer Options are for your support," said Hope Nemiroff, executive director of Breast Cancer Options. "The campers love Omega and feel accepted and safe which is important for children in their situations. One camper had begun sleeping on the floor next to her mom’s bed to keep an eye on her. Camp really helped her to deal with her fears and be able to talk about them."

Metastatic Breast Cancer Retreat

Some of the children have moms who attend the Metastatic Breast Cancer Retreat also held at Omega. This year, 25 women attended the retreat and since 2011, more than 115 women have participated.

The retreat includes special programs to help attendees deal with an advanced cancer diagnosis, how to manage stress, and how to deal with treatment side effects. Healers donate their services. 

"The women in the retreat feel as though they have found a second home and love the camaraderie and support they are surrounded by," Nemiroff said.

During the retreat, women share stories and learn from other women like themselves, as well as special speakers, physicians, and others.

"The retreat left me changed," one participant said. "I went in not sleeping, feeling tired, isolated, and depressed, and left lighter. It's hard to explain but being around these women, in a tranquil setting, sharing our condition but laughing and talking like 'normal people' made me feel human again."

Another participant was grateful that the program was offered at no cost. She said, "Treating this disease takes 40 percent of our monthly income. To know that Breast Cancer Options is there for free advice at any time and sponsors retreats like this is invaluable to me."

Book Reading With Elizabeth Lesser Now Available

1 month 1 week ago

On Monday, September 19, Omega was proud to host the book launch—on campus and via live stream—of Omega cofounder Elizabeth Lesser's new memoir Marrow: A Love Story. We are pleased to now offer the on-demand video free of charge through November 18.

The evening featured moving readings from Lesser and inspiring music by David Wilcox, exploring the question, "What does it mean to be true to oneself and also be connected to the ones we love?"

Marrow traces the journey made by Lesser and her sister Maggie, when Maggie needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life, and Lesser learns that she is the perfect match. In the process, the sisters dive deep into the marrow of their relationship and explore the multifaceted nature of love. 

Lesser is the author of The Seeker’s Guide and the New York Times best-selling Broken Open. For almost 40 years, she has studied and worked with leading figures in the field of healing—healing self and society. 

Retreats for Homeless Youth Have Big Impact

2 months 3 days ago

Lewis has enrolled in a four-year college. Chantel is transferring to FIT for a degree in fashion design. John is healing his tumor and enrolled in a wellness internship at Omega. Monte applied to drama school.

These are just a few successes reported by the Reciprocity Foundation—a New York City-based nonprofit that works with homeless and high-risk youth—following retreats they held at Omega Institute’s Rhinebeck campus.

“The weekend at Omega was like hitting the restart button on my whole being," Chantel, a retreat participant, said. "I feel like a different person.”

The 2016 retreat had 10 participants, including Essence, who said she was afraid to eat salad before coming to Omega. She tried the salad bar anyway and noticed that the greens made her feel great. All the youth gained valuable exposure to healthy lifestyle elements including nutrition and movement. 

Vivian, another participant, said, “Being at Omega is about becoming clear. When I’m here, I can see my past and my present clearly. I know who I am. It feels good.”

The Reciprocity Foundation roots its work in contemplative practice, helping youth cultivate inner clarity rather than focusing exclusively on external outcomes. They aim to break the cycle of poverty by advancing education and well-being, and helping youth create a powerful vision for their lives. During the retreat, many had their first opportunity to practice yoga, experience wellness treatments, take nature walks, try sitting meditation, share stories, and connect with one another. 

“Youth have told us that the retreats are life-changing and have offered them a rare glimpse into how it feels to live as whole, integrated people,” said Reciprocity cofounders Taz Tagore and Adam Bucko.

Since 2011, about 100 young people have participated in Reciprocity Foundation retreats at Omega, with astounding results—including 35 percent of participants applying to college within six weeks of the retreat and 95 percent saying they felt less stress and were ready to make plans for their future.  

“The gift of Omega is that everyone gradually softens, opens up, and puts their pain and fear into words,” Tagore said. “Nearly all participants now practice meditation; some have even started meditation classes at their shelters. The Omega retreat experience enabled someone deeply suppressing trauma to finally open and share. This was powerful and this young person moved out of shelter just three weeks after the retreat. That is incredible!"

Article photo © Alex Fradkin

Documentary Says Disabled Veterans Can Still Serve

2 months 2 weeks ago

Why Can’t We Serve is a documentary film in the making that asks a powerful question, "Why can't wounded warriors and people with disabilities serve in the military?"

Marty Klein wants to help answer this question. While serving in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s, Klein developed an eye disease, lost his vision, and was discharged.

“The first seven years of my life without sight was really hell, because I had to recreate my life without sight and I didn’t know who I was as a blind person,” Klein said. “It was really difficult. I just thought it was my problem. I did deal with it and I got lucky and I have a great life now."

His healing journey included both working at Omega and attending many Omega workshops. One of the weekends that had the most impact on him was a spiritual workshop with Ram Dass and Krishna Das.

“The sound of the harmonium played at night touched my heart,” he said. “I've been chanting and leading kirtan, evenings of sacred chanting, with my harmonium ever since.”

The blind veteran hopes his feature-length forthcoming documentary can create positive policy changes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses and corporations to hire people with disabilities with one exception—the U.S. military, which is not required to comply with the ADA.

He wants to offer hope and healing to discharged veterans with disabilities and shift the culture for people with disabilities in general.

“Fast forward from 1970 to now—veterans coming back, soldiers with wounds from combat are discharged out of the military and go home with a disability and no identity,” he said. “A lot of them are committing suicide—22 a day. It’s crazy. I believe that if more people were able to stay in the military there would be less suicide.”

More than 100 people attended a benefit concert in Klein's hometown of Woodstock, New York, in July to help raise money and awareness for filming the documentary. The night included a silent auction with in-kind donations from many local businesses and organizations, including Omega. 

Klein also believes that a policy change could open the door for all people with disabilities who could have the option to join the military in a non-combat position.

“There are so many jobs in the military done today on a computer, and most people with disabilities can handle computers just fine,” Klein said. “I wrote three books and two screenplays on the computer, and I’m blind. We can do these things.”

Visit for more information.

Facing Pushback on Mindfulness in Schools

2 months 3 weeks ago

Mindfulness is hot. U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan practices it with colleagues on Capitol Hill. The British Parliament is doing it, too. And hundreds of programs teach it to students in schools across the country each day.

But not everyone is on board, as Fiona Jensen discovered firsthand when one of the schools she works with found itself on the receiving end of a potential lawsuit.

Jensen is founder and executive director of Calmer Choice, a community-based nonprofit in Massachusetts that runs programs in schools to help kids reduce stress, build resiliency, and increase well-being. In the fall of 2015, Calmer Choice was accused by a parent and school board member of crossing the lines of church and state and potentially putting kids at risk by teaching them mindfulness practices.

Eventually the case was dropped, but as Jensen reached out to others in the mindfulness in schools community for support, she consistently heard, “We’ve been waiting for this to happen.” Through her conversations it became clear that there was an interest among the community in getting together to discuss the situation further.

Working Group Meets to Discuss Strategy

In June, Omega welcomed a group of more than 20 thought leaders for a self-directed retreat to look at teaching mindfulness in schools and discover what could be learned from Calmer Choice’s experience. The group included researchers, educators, religious scholars, and a lawyer, as well as representatives from nonprofits, the public, and the media.

Using Calmer Choice’s curriculum as a case study, Jensen explained, “We wanted to know what is in here that can potentially offend and why, so that we can have a deep understanding and can really hold that with integrity. If we don’t know where the landmines are, we’re going to step on them.”

To do this they reached out to, among others, Candy Gunther Brown, a religious scholar who has testified against having overtly religious yoga in the classroom. She provided information that helped guide some of the discussion during the two days.

The group looked at specific practices and curricula and discussed what might be perceived as violating the separation of church and state.

For example, when talking about teaching lovingkindness in the classroom, Adria Kennedy, Calmer Choice’s program director, said that it’s a practice the kids love doing, but it would likely not pass the litmus test. “It becomes a question of whether you can do it without using the terms or having the repetitive phrasing, because it’s the phrasing that makes it become like a mantra,” she said.

Some organizations have dropped the lesson from their curriculum, while others, like Calmer Choice, have substituted it for a lesson on gratitude and generosity. But Jensen suggests because the science indicates it’s the repetition that changes the neural pathways, there may be a question of potency when you begin to change exercises.

As the group examined different practices through this lens, they were able to start to categorize them. “We created a concentric circle diagram where the inside circle included exercises that would be safe to teach, like 5-fingered breathing and engaged attention. The next circle included exercises that might be okay, depending on your delivery and geographic location. The outside circle included exercises to avoid, like using Tibetan bowls, namaste hands, mudras, mantras, and anything that might be associated with religion.”

The group also took a hard look at what their intention is for bringing these practices to kids.

“What we really want to do is build resilience in kids and equip them for this world that’s on fire 24/ we’re really looking at what we do so it can be done in a way that is truly nonoffensive and completely secular,” said Jensen.

The group is considering creating a Mindfulness in Education coalition to help continue to guide these conversations. They are also planning to distill their notes into a short document they can share with others doing this work.

To stay informed or get involved, contact Fiona Jensen at

Back Row of Photo
Sheryl Petty, EdD, education equity and systems change consultant
Tom Roepke, New York City school teacher 
David Troutman, Calmer Choice Board Chair 
Randy Fernando, executive director of Mindful Schools
Clemens Bauer Hoss, MD, PhD, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT 
Daniel Rechtschaffen, therapist and originator of the Mindfulness & Education Conference 
Michael Crowley, PhD, assistant professor in the Child Study Center at Yale

Front Row of Photo
Adria Kennedy, RN/NP, MSN, program director at Calmer Choice 
Fiona Jensen, OTR/L, executive director at Calmer Choice
Janice Houlihan, MEd, cofounder of Inner Explorer
Laura Bakosh, PhD, cofounder of Inner Explorer
Leslie Booker, teacher at Lineage Project
Susan Kaiser Greenland, JD, cofounder of Inner Kids
Sunny Wight, founder and executive director of Mindfulness First
Linda Lantieri, founding member of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
Lori Gustafson, MS, senior outreach specialist at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jane Hsu, principal at PS 116 in New York City
Chris Willard, PSYD, psychologist and author

Missing From Photo
Ali Smith, cofounder of Holistic Life Foundation
Michael Craft, business and program development strategist at Omega
Mikyö Clark, producer
Larry Brown, teacher at Cape Cod Academy 
Garrett “Dinabandhu” Sarley, launch manager and project consultant for 1440
Rev. Samuel Speers, DMin, assistant dean of the College for Campus Life and director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College

A Fresh Approach to Diversity

3 months 1 week ago

Omega recently hosted and participated in an important 3-day diversity training led by the Opening Doors Diversity Project. Participants from across New York’s Hudson Valley included representatives from Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Hudson River Housing, LGBTQ Task Force to Undo Racism, Dutchess County Human Resources, Local Economies Project, and Cornell Cooperative Extension 4H Youth Development. Each participant was there to review how they personally and professionally relate to diversity, and learn strategies and tools to bring back to their organizations and communities.

Opening Doors facilitators, Kathy Castania, Maryellen Whittington-Couse, and Eduardo Gonzalez, Jr., led participants through exercises to identify and explore their experiences in the current dominant/excluded model at work in our society—a “power over” approach. Then they introduced a partnership model—a “power with” approach. Participants learned to identify overt, implicit, and internalized oppression and discovered how to become responsible allies.

The training drew on real-life examples of oppression, primarily through storytelling by facilitators and participants. For example, facilitator/apprentice, Ricardo Adams, shared, “Saying, ‘Black lives matter,’ and someone responding, ‘All lives matter,’ is like saying, ‘Cancer is bad,’ and someone responding, ‘What about tuberculosis?’” Ricardo’s example illustrates how this way of thinking prevents us from recognizing and working together to address real issues for each oppression.

The training led participants to think through a number of important questions, like what dominant and excluded groups have you been part of throughout your lifetime? Have you experienced privileges as a member of a dominant group or the disempowerment of an excluded group? Has your experience been a combination of both? How can you use this awareness to notice and interrupt interpersonal and institutional oppression?

"This training helped my colleagues and I take important next steps on our personal learning journeys. It was very valuable to learn alongside peers in our region, since we can meet again and support each other to make changes in our communities and institutions," said Susan Grove, Omega's community engagement manager. "As Omega looks to support leaders who want to address inequitable systems that marginalize people, we are grateful that Opening Doors provided a learning experience that forged strong connections with leaders in our community." 

Facilitator Kathy Castania expressed high hopes for our region as a result of the targeted recruitment of local individuals who organize on issues of social justice. Workshop participants are in the process of organizing a follow up meeting to share how they are applying the insights they gained and to explore how they can work collaboratively moving forward.

To learn more, explore these fact sheets written by Kathy Castania: What Is Diversity? and The Evolving Language of Diversity.  

Jamie Levato, training organizer

Kathy Castania, Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator
Ricardo Adams, Opening Doors Diversity Project facilitator apprentice/participant
Maryellen Whittington-Couse, Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator
Eduardo Gonzalez, Jr., Opening Doors Diversity Project training facilitator

Omega Recognized for Donating Up to 5000 Meals Annually

3 months 3 weeks ago

Dutchess Outreach, one of the largest emergency food providers in the Hudson Valley, recently gathered more than 100 people to recognize the many volunteers and partners that help “alleviate the myriad difficulties poor people face every day.”

Omega FoodWorks was one of the organizations honored and presented with a Community Service Award for helping combat the unacceptable levels of food insecurity in our communities. 

Since 2002, Omega has saved prepared meals that weren’t served in the Dining Hall to share with Dutchess Outreach’s Lunch Box. One of the most recent deliveries provided enough food for almost two weeks worth of Lunch Box evening meals. Omega’s annual donations are used to provide up to 5,000 meals that incorporate organically grown food sourced from Hudson Valley farms.

The theme of the evening was "volunteering is my superpower." In his opening remarks, Dutchess Outreach executive director Brian Riddell said, "Take a look around, take in what you see here, and if you’ve ever wondered or if anyone ever asks you, what does it take to provide 200,000 meals a year for people who often go without enough to eat, this is it! We’re all in this together. Everyone has a right to eat and to eat well, and united we take that stand and make it happen. If that’s not a superpower, I don’t know what is."

Omega FoodWorks general manager and executive chef Adam Cincotti accepted the award on Omega’s behalf, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to partner with Dutchess Outreach.

“When we have perfectly good food ready to be eaten that we can no longer use, we’re grateful to be able to bring it to the Lunch Box," he said. "It’s important to me that we work to eliminate food waste however we can. Partnering with Dutchess Outreach allows us to live into one of Omega's core values, sustainability, that we interpret through the lens of intersecting social, economic, and environmental issues.” 

The Lunch Box serves midday, after school, and dinner meals to 200 people each day from the home base of Dutchess Outreach in Poughkeepsie, New York, a city where more than one in four households experience food insecurity.

Presenting the award, Dutchess Outreach board member Brandi Rider said, "Omega’s donations support Dutchess Outreach’s increased efforts to provide wholesome and nutritious meals."

Ending the Concrete Ceiling for Women of Color

4 months 11 hours ago

Women of color are the most likely demographic to earn poverty wages because of conscious and unconscious social biases, personal confidence gaps, and an overall lack of opportunities. There is ample data focusing on the challenges women at large face in the workforce, but there is glaringly limited discussion about how it relates to challenges women of color face. Awareness of these factors on all sides is crucial in creating change.

These were facts raised by the Women's Leadership Alliance (WLA) of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce in the introduction to their panel discussion, Concrete Ceiling: Challenges Women of Color Face in the Workplace at the Boardman Road Branch Library in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Organizer Dr. Lubna Somjee encouraged everyone to action, saying, "This issue is persistent, pervasive, and quiet. Let's start a conversation so we can go back to our institutions and make some noise!"

Sarah Urech, manager of the Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC)—a cosponsor the event—called attention to the importance of intersectionality in her introduction. "As women take on more leadership and gain more power, we are interested in how women can use that rise in influence to be transformers of power itself—from a force that is based on domination to one based on cooperation," she said.

The event description spoke to the need for local conversation and gave a definition of the concrete ceiling, stating, "For decades people have discussed the glass ceiling—the barrier that prevents women as a group from moving up the corporate hierarchy. The concrete ceiling is an even more formidable barrier that women of color face in the workplace." 

While it's true that women increasingly obtain positions at the tops of corporate and government hierarchies, these are the exceptions and are not reflective of growing equity. The concrete ceiling is an added burden for women of color, who confront additional issues such as racism, lack of role models, exclusion from networks, and a lack of opportunities to showcase a full range of skills.

The event speakers featured several women of color leaders, including Mecca Santana, Sarah Lee, Lisa Ghartey, Jen Brown, Cindy Smith, and Karla Jerry, who shared personal stories of hitting the concrete ceiling. With intimacy and clarity they illuminated how to deal with various issues, such as recognizing discrimination based on color or gender; identifying and coping with microaggressions in the workplace; increasing recruitment and retention in women of color in the workplace; and seeking professional support and mentorship. 

Mecca Santana described how her uncle would say, “You’re not going to be a lawyer,” and how she was sure to invite him to her law school graduation. She attributed an abundance of job offers to her confident attitude, saying, “They’d be lucky to have me.” She also called on organizations to institutionalize a culture of diversity. "Be a place where people of color want to work and educate your workforce on implicit bias,” she said. 

Karla Jerry reminded the audience, "We need diversity to serve all kinds of communities.” She shared that she focuses on knowing her own strengths and ignores discrimination by being “too busy working."

“Believe in yourself, know your self-worth. You can learn from your bad experiences and ask for support from a mentor,” she said.

Jen Brown drew a historical line tracing the United States' past of slavery to a present culture still racialized. Being from the school of “find a way or make a way,” she described part of her journey as spiritual and also emphasized the importance of believing in yourself.

"You can transcend what you are facing and find your part in difficult situations,” said Brown. She also firmly stated that white people need to take the lead to teach white people cultural literacy, and drew attention to the fact that the pathways she and her fellow panelists followed to success are not available to all.

Lisa Ghartey implored everyone to ask where the women of color are in their workplace. "Homogeneity is not good because it’s not who we are. Diversity will lend to the cohesiveness of our teams."

Sarah Lee encouraged women to talk to each other. “Preconceived notions start to wash away as you get to know people. Know employees as people, know their stories,” she said. 

“Treat everyone the same, regardless of their position or role in the organization,” Cindy Smith added, suggesting one way to retain staff is through education and encouraging everyone to network.

The final advice from the panelists included finding a mentor and trusted advisor whom you can trust; to be unapologetic and tell the truth in an authentic way; and to work smart, do your homework, and be fearless.  

“I learned I should be me. I am valuable. I am wonderful even though prejudice says we need to look, act, talk a certain way,” said audience member Dr. Anesta Vannoy-Kwame, president of the Southern Dutchess NAACP Branch 2132, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in October.

One of the WLA’s core tenets is collaboration: "When women work together, we are stronger, more powerful, and able to sidestep potential pitfalls." The OWLC is committed to being part of ongoing discussions on how local organizations can best support women of color in the workplace in the Hudson Valley, and hopes this conversation is the beginning of many more to come.

Doing Power Differently Internationally in Jamaica's Energy Sector

4 months 1 day ago

Kelly Tomblin, president and CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company talks about the impact of her time at Omega, the impetus to create the Women in Energy Conference: Doing Power Differently, and what #DoPowerDifferently means to her.

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.


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