Maria Jelescu & Jully Meriño Carela
CEO of Ardinall Investment Management & Director of CGEP's Women in Energy Initiative

The importance of diversity in energy finance is gaining attention as more investors look closer at how companies are stacking up when it comes to the representation of women and minorities on their boards of directors and in their management ranks.

And it is not just the energy sector discovering this trend. It is taking place across corporations in the U.S. and around the world, a point illustrated in a new commentary from the Center on Global Energy Policy.

In this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless joins two of the authors of that commentary, Maria Jelescu, the CEO of Ardinall Investment Management, and Jully Meriño Carela, the director of the Women in Energy (WIE) initiative at CGEP.

Maria also co-chairs the WIE steering committee and serves on the center’s advisory board. She and Jully co-authored the commentary with Amy Myers Jaffe, the managing director of the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and a co-chair of the WIE steering committee.

In the commentary, the authors make clear that the social aspects of ESG -- or environmental, social and governance considerations -- are front and center now as pressure mounts on energy companies to address the gender and racial makeup of their operations and recognize the value of diversity to them.

The commentary is called “The Social Aspects of ESG Investing: Insights on Diversity in Energy Finance.”

The discussion is particularly timely now amid a new shareholder proxy season, as investors press companies on ESG factors, and the Biden administration signals that closer government scrutiny of these matters may be in order.

Maria founded Ardinall Investment in 2017 as a firm focused on sustainability and climate change solutions. Previously, she spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs in various investment roles. Jully worked in labor and nonprofit fields before joining the Center on Global Energy Policy and taking charge of the Women in Energy initiative. Its mission is to elevate women in the energy sector at all career stages.

The commentary can be found here.



Bill Loveless:  Hello and welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. The importance of diversity in energy finance is gaining attention as more investors look closer at how companies are stacking up when it comes to the representation of women and minorities on their boards of directors and in their management ranks.

And it’s not just the energy sector that’s discovering this trend. It’s taking place across corporations in the United States and around the world. A new commentary from the Center on Global Energy Policy makes that point and it’s my pleasure to host two of the authors of that report Maria Jelescu, the CEO of Ardinall Investment Management, and Jully Meriño Carela, the Director of the Women in Energy Program at the Center on Global Energy Policy.

Maria also co-chairs the steering committee of the women in the energy initiative, and serves on the Center’s Advisory Board. She and Jully co-authored the report with Amy Myers Jaffe, the Managing Director of the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and a co-chair of the Women in Energy steering committee.

In the report, the authors make clear that the social aspects of ESG or environmental, social and governance considerations are front and center now as pressure mounts on energy companies to address the gender and racial makeup of their operations and recognize the value of diversity to them. The report is called “The Social Aspects of ESG Investing: Insights on Diversity in Energy Finance.”

The discussion is particularly timely now amid a new shareholder proxy season, as investors press companies on ESG factors, and the Biden administration signals that closer government scrutiny of these matters may be in order.

Maria founded Ardinall Investment in 2017 as a firm focused on sustainability and climate change solutions. Previously, she spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs in various investment roles. Jully worked in labor and nonprofit fields before joining the Center on Global Energy Policy and taking charge of the Women in Energy initiative. Its mission is to elevate women in the energy sector at all career stages. Well here is our conversation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Maria Jelescu, Jully Meriño Carela, welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange.   

Maria Jelescu: Thank you Bill, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Jully Meriño Carela: Hi, Bill.

Bill Loveless: Well, this is a timely discussion and one that I think a lot of people may not be thinking all that much about, I suppose if they are an investor, they may be, but we will be talking about ES and G, and we are going to talk about the aspects to many people who is probably more or less, or has been a silent S, maybe not so much anymore, but I think some would feel that’s been the case, but before we start with that. Maria, we’ll start with you if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself and the path that you have taken in your career?

Maria Jelescu:  Sounds good Bill and I’ll start all the way back. I’m Romanian, born and raised. I grew up there, mostly under communism and came to the U.S. for college. I went to MIT and like any good STEM student from Eastern Europe I was going to study chemistry, that’s what I got a full scholarship for that, and I discovered finance and the financial markets and I fell in love with it so I switched majors and studied Management and Economics. 

And I joined Goldman Sachs after college, where I spent 15 years in various investing roles in, what we call on the buy side, investing in energy, industrials, infrastructure, old economy, if you will. And energy back then was oil and gas so that’s how I started and somewhere along the way I realize, I was on the wrong side of the track and started focusing more on renewables, on cleantech, on green energy.

And then I have the chance to spin out with the team from Goldman, and I founded Ardinall four years ago with a focused on climate change and sustainability so that’s what we do. We invest in public companies and we also work with companies to help them decarbonize, we develop projects together and we co-invest with companies to help them clean up if you will.

Bill Loveless: Yeah, interesting, from chemistry to finance, it’s quite a transition, but an interesting one at that. Jully, of course Jully is my colleague at the Center on Global Energy Policy and does amazing things, with women and energy program. Jully, where, as does Maria, and as does Amy as well, Jully tell us little bit about your career path?

Jully Meriño Carela: Yeah so actually similar to Maria, I too was not born here, I was born in the Dominican Republic, except that I arrived at this country with my family, much younger in New Jersey, when I was about six years old. But I -- for undergrad, I was a women’s studies and political science major, really women studies and just – I just so happen to be taking it out of cross listed classes and stumbled upon political science.

And after college, I knew that I wanted to be in a field where I was helping women, but this is right before the big economic crash of 2008. And so I found myself working in the labor field in Arizona. The labor field was great, I was a Union Organizer, actually my story takes like a few twists and turns, but while working there, sought this passion and drive to be wanting to help women. And so I came back to the East Coast, because East Coast girl at heart and continued to working in the labor field, until I find an opportunity to work at a small nonprofit that is a workforce training organization, a pre-apprenticeship program that helped women get into the trade, so construction, utilities, transportation.  And after that I found myself sort of little bit stuck, it was a very small nonprofit, and I knew I wanted to sort of move on to bigger and better, and that’s when I arrived at Columbia.

And I started pursing a degree in SIPA, in MPA in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management. And I knew I wanted to be working at a department at Columbia, that was -- a bit closely align with what I was studying, and I also had this drive to continue to help women and that’s how I found the Center on Global Energy Policy, which at the time was looking for a program coordinator to be the manager of the Women in Energy Program, which was just starting off the ground, as well as helping with the rest of the events at the Center. We were a much smaller organization, back then.

When I finished my degree at SIPA, I was offered the role to be the Director of the Women in Energy Program, and have it be its own standalone program and we elevated, and here we are today, about two to three years later. And I also find myself – a current students again, part-time, also pursing another masters, because I just love to learn.

Bill Loveless: You can never learn enough. The program has gone a long way, and we can touch on that little bit later, but let’s talk about this topic of ES and G aspects of investing and what caught my eye was a commentary that you wrote, you, Maria and Amy Myers Jaffe wrote on “The Social Aspects of ESG Investing: Insights on Diversity in Energy Finance.” And what you wrote there is the social aspects of ES and G are coming to the fore. They gained attention during the 2020 shareholder proxy season.  And here we are in the 2021 shareholder proxy season, so why is that so Maria and are we seeing more of that this year?

Maria Jelescu:  Good question Bill, the short answer is yes, we’re continuing to see keener focus on the S in ESG.  But taking the step back, it’s so focused on all aspects of ESG, right. We’re talking about the environmental issues and we have been talking about them for the last few years. And every year they become more and more important, more and more prevalent, the same thing goes with S, we had seen quite a little bit of a focus on it last year, but every year it’s getting more and more relevant, more and more important. And ESG is not just an acronym anymore, it’s changed a way that companies are governed. It’s changed a way people think about priorities of corporations and including all stakeholders and having a completely different view from the previous profit maximization strategy.

And we look at S as being extremely important in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion in itself, but it’s also an enabler of more E, more G, it’s a way for increasing and improving the ESG score all throughout.

Bill Loveless:  Right. And Jully, I mean, you write in the report that shareholders filed proposals for corporate engagement on more than 400 environmental, social and sustainability issues during the 2020 proxy season, including on gender and racial diversity, report also tells us 77% of Fortune 100 companies voluntarily highlighted human capital initiatives, up from 32% in 2017. So we’ve seen some progress certainly was reflected last year and perhaps will see that sort of thing again this year?

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yeah, and we’re seeing that again this year, especially the past year has been obviously unprecedented, I don’t need to say that.  And there’s been really a concerted effort and a view on the workplace and it’s workers and I – the mental health and physical wellbeing of your workers, if you have a physical well, if your workers are physically, mentally safe, they’re more productive, they’re more efficient which is better for the firm.  And as Maria noted, I mean, looking at the S, right, it also has impacts for the environmental and the governance, we quote a study in the commentary that noted that, looking – when you’re looking as a – the board diversity in terms of gender, boards that have more women also have better environmental policies throughout.  And it’s particularly of note when it comes to sort of higher polluting industries such as, obviously oil and gas and mining.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, I read so much these days, it seems that companies are under a whole lot more pressure to provide disclosures on ES and G, but it’s mainly on the environmental issues and driven by concerns over a climate change and extent to which companies are contributing to emissions, to emissions, carbon and to global warming.  And we see that from the president who is suggesting he wants to do more here, to the securities and exchange commission as well, is that, I mean, is the social issues, are they going – are they coming anywhere near the attention that the environmental ones are getting right now?

Jully Meriño Carela:  I think, it’s starting a bit, it’s also a bit tricky too, because like how do you calculate, how do you calculate a workforce wellbeing, how do you calculate diversity with a new workforce, how do you calculate attrition and turnover into your financials when you were looking at the full investment of a firm and the full firm performance. But I, looking at sort of the, some of the previews for the 2021 proxy season, as you mentioned earlier, there is attention on the sort of human capital and talent management and so we saw a few years ago when people were looking at the E and the environmental and it’s like, how do you calculate these things into an actual, into the firm performance, we’re seeing more and more, we sort of building the bridge as we’re crossing it if you will. 

Maria Jelescu:  Yeah, I’ll add on a little bit here Bill, when you look at the change and disclosures that we’ve seen on the E side in the last two or three years, it’s really been remarkable and I think, S is just maybe a tad behind, but coming forcefully, we’re seeing a lot more disclosure, not just around, it’s all started with diversity on boards and then it kind of moved towards diversity across companies.  But now we’re addressing much deeper issues, right, we’re addressing gender pay gaps and other related things, and so I think that this is going to become more and more important and more and more fundamental to companies and the way that they make their disclosures and the way that they communicate with shareholders and stakeholders.  

And just kind of taking the step back like why are we seeing this increased focus on S, I think we’ve gone from the belief that this is something nice to have, it’s a box that needs to be checked and it’s fair and it’s equitable to the fact that now it’s become a very important business case, we have made the business case that more diverse companies, more inclusive companies have better bottom lines, they have better results, they create more value, so it’s no longer nice to have, fair to have, but it’s a business imperative and if you don’t do it, you fall behind, you destroy value.  And this has only happened in the last couple of years.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, and it’s interesting you say the last couple of years, because I think in the past year, we’re seeing a lot more discussion about environmental justice and the need for racial and gender diversity partly driven by events that have occurred over the past year, but just saying, it – the concerns over this sort of thing, the attention it was getting began even before that period of time. 

Maria Jelescu:  Absolutely, the issue is that we’ve never really had the research, the deep research behind it. Now we have academic institutions focusing on it, we have proper statistically significant research that makes the business case, that focusing on diversity, equality and inclusion creates better business outcomes and it’s not just anecdotal, but it’s research that you can take at face value and that’s statistically significant and I think that’s the difference. I think that people look at it as understanding the business case, understanding the merits behind it and relating it to dollars and cents in bottom lines.

Jully Meriño Carela:  I think just socially people are more aware, because again like Maria said like you’re saying some of these issues were already around before this past year, but received more and more not just the investment community putting pressure on that and looking at firms and valuing firms this way, but also just socially and we’re seeing what, how is the society transforming on – based on the events from the past years and previous years, but society is also putting pressure on investors and on the companies to focus more on, so the diversity equity inclusion and the S within the firms as well, because also I mean it also not just aside from performance financial risk is also a reputational risks to companies.

Bill Loveless:  Okay, of course we look at the energy industry that’s where we spend most of our working time. Where, Maria is, you write in this report that you and Jully and Amy write that the women share the energy workforce ranges from 23 percent to 32 percent and the women represent less than one fifth of senior executive positions at energy companies. Minorities are even less represented in energy company leadership. Is this picture going to change, is it beginning to change?

Maria Jelescu:  I surely hope so, Bill. I do think we’re starting from a low base the numbers that you just quoted, less than 20 percent of women in senior positions. So I’d like to think of it as March from 20 percent to at least 50 percent in the years to come. And I think what’s exciting about this is that I believe the energy transition that the sector broadly is undergoing will accelerate this percentage going from 20 percent to 50 percent then, who knows maybe even more.

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yeah, I mean even when I see, when I think about our student members in particular from the Women in Energy program, we have both student members and professional members, our student members really when you look at the energy industry, they want to go into renewables, they want to go into companies where they feel like they’re having an impact, where they feel like they’re part of the energy transition, where they feel like they’re making a difference in fighting climate change. And so you look at the industry as a whole, they’re going to have to diversify if they want to attract top talent particularly that top talent has a very clear view of where they want to go and where they want to take their career. And sometimes oil and gas isn’t it, so it’s as Maria was saying based on the energy transition, not just transitioning from your fossil fuels to renewables, but also recruiting and promoting and retaining the talent that’s going, the diverse talent when it comes to racial diversity, gender diversity that’s also going to then attract to a further talent down the road. 

Bill Loveless:  And what about, I mean when you talk to the students Jully, that these women that are looking at potential energy careers I mean, they are aware of these kinds of numbers, right, and in this picture of where women stand, where minorities stand in the – in this energy sector. Are they still interested, that interested and going into it, knowing that?

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yeah, they are very interested I mean, we have a – I’m biased of course, but we have some of the best students and of course Women in Energy is not just Columbia University initiative, we have partner institutions including MIT, Tufts University, NYU, Rutgers. And yeah, they – the students that I deal with they really are super driven and they do want to change the world and because of climate change and because of the – issues that we’re seeing with the environmental issues, they want to go into these companies to be able to make a difference, understanding the numbers, understanding that it’s going to be hard that’s why within the program we provide career guidance, we provide mentorship, we provide support again not just women entering the field, but also for women who are further on in their career who might be hitting that bit of a wall and need some help and more support.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, and there is a one part of the energy industry we read here that, where the picture is little bit better and that is utilities, there are more women CEO’s then in any other sector of the SMP 500 or at least that was the case in 2018 when it was reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal’s Lynn Cook wrote at the time that it showed how prioritized female executive development had become among utilities. We do see that, we had Lynn Good from –the CEO of duke energy on this podcast a few weeks ago and we do see women there, so maybe that’s the sector where things are little bit better when it comes to women, women’s involvement in the higher ranks of the company as well as rest of the companies.

Maria Jelescu:  Yeah, absolutely Bill. And what I would say is, the low participation of women in leadership positions is obviously not endemic to the energy industry we’re saying the same in finance and in technology. Utilities is a right spot, so is aerospace and defense for example, but what I think is important here is because the industry is undergoing such dramatic change in order for us to have a successful energy transition, we’re going to need to tap into all of the resources that we can possibly get our hands on, including the most diverse creative and unique workforce. And again, what’s exciting about students for example is, it’s exciting to think about the fact that the largest US solar rooftop developer was founded by a woman. And in these new sectors where the playing field is fairly leveled, I think that this is a great opportunity for women to start and get a – rise to the top early on and really be able to have meaningful impact and significant presence in terms of leadership positions.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, there is – and of course, they are as we’ve been discussing these that the companies are under more pressure ESG oriented institutional investors BlackRock, State Street are raising more questions about all male boards or boards with few women and underrepresented minorities, the commentary tells us, you write. That’s a problem, this is what you’re saying about the energy sector, that’s a problem for an industry already reeling from falling stock valuations and mid lower prices flagging cash flows and high debt. 

Maria Jelescu:  Absolutely.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, they – the – again, we’ve talked before about the employment overall of women and women represented just over 12 percent of board seats for energy companies in the
Russell 3000 Index back in 2019 and nearly one third of all energy companies had all male boards. What, some states have taken action on, this California for example has required a minimum number of women on boards of companies based in the golden state, other states are looking for similar actions as well. Of course as we mentioned the SCC is working on gathering feedback on whether to designate a new or existing organization to set standards for ESG disclosures and to establish, or to establish new reporting rules without such an organization. How important is the government in fostering this change?   

Jully Meriño Carela:  I certainly think there is a role for policy, right? I mean, we’ve been talking about, there are studies that show that they would have been on the boards leads to better environmental policies, leads to better firm performance, but companies have been slow to act, right. And then you still have energy companies with all male boards. But I think also one thing that I want to note is that it’s not just important to just have one woman on the board, also studies have also show that there’s needs to be a critical mass of 30 percent women on the board, so it can really start seeing the returns and seeing the fruits of having that sort of diversity within the organization.

Anyway you have not just, obviously in our state, you have California, I think New Jersey is also looking at this, but you have Norway, well they have mandated I think it’s like 40 percent of women on their board for years. And so I think there is a rule, but policy and having numbers will only get you so far, and you still need to have the cultural change within your organization, the cultural change within the board, and then not just assign one woman and check the box, right, you can’t have that token person of color, token woman. You need to really have a concerted effort to try to get more diverse forces. The thing is we’re dealing with really complex global issues energy, dealing with their energy issues of tomorrow, these complex issues, climate change, etcetera. 

Like Maria said, you want the most talent there and again studies have shown with a great Columbia professor did research on this, showing how more diverse groups are better at solving complex problems. And again energy is nothing if not complex, so why not want to recruit diverse individuals, people of color, women, who are going to bring different perspectives to the same problem, we’re going to bring a different lens when looking at the same problem and putting all those lenses together we’ll come up with a better solution.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah. Any role models you look to, I mean, when I think of changes taking place you looked for, who are the pioneers in the industry, whether they be companies or individuals who stand out as sort of role models for changes that are taking place and the appropriate changes that are taking place.

Jully Meriño Carela:  That’s a good question and every time I think about this question, I have to tell this story because it’s just—so this is how impactful this story is for me. This woman is not in energy but I was attending a conference, my gosh, I was attending a CFR conference in DC back when we were able to travel to places. 

Bill Loveless:  Council of Foreign Relations.

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yes, sorry, yes. And it was on diversity within international community and they had an all-female panel talking about the future of democracy around the world, they were introducing the panelist and I was looking down and I heard the name of this one woman and they said, Julissa Reynoso and I was like that’s a very Dominican name. So look up, I looked up in the program and I saw she’s from Dominican Republic, she’s a Columbia alum and a Columbia trustee. And I look up and here is this woman, she’s relatively short but with a big head of curly hair similar to mine, except hers was longer. 

And I couldn’t—I mean this was only a couple of years ago and I looked at her and I was like, I’ve never seen representation like this, like role models and representation matter so much. After the panel I ran up to her and I introduced myself, I was like, I work at Columbia, I’m also an alumni, I work with Women in Energy, I’d love to just chat with you. We had a great conversation and now – she’s actually Dr. Jill Biden’s Chief of Staff, she was selected for that role, but the fact that I mean, a couple of years ago just I’ve never seen a Dominican woman looking like me, like represented on this amazing panel, like I cannot stress how much representation and role models matters. And again she wasn’t in energy, she’s a lawyer, but I look up to her so much.

Bill Loveless:  That’s a good story.

Maria Jelescu:  That’s a great story. But Bill if I could chime in here, I think the question that you asked is very important, what is the role of government and policy making in this. And we all look to countries such as Canada or the Nordic countries in Europe with mandated targets about women on boards or other diversity metrics. And I don’t think that the same structure would work well in the US, but I think that we’re already underway and we’re in a good direction, direction of travel is excellent. And we are beating the targets or meeting the targets that we’ve imposed for ourselves. 

So I’ll give you an example, it wasn’t coming from governments although what California did obviously is also helping. But there’s been nonprofit organization called 2020 Women on Boards and they started 10 years ago and their goal was to have 20 percent women on boards by 2020. Well guess what happened 2020 came and lo and behold, the percentage of women on boards was 20.4. 

So they actually achieved their goal and the way I look at it is you can’t change what you can’t measure, so let’s measure, let’s set targets. And what’s interesting is name a better organization one from 2020 Women on Boards to 5050 Women On Boards, so now their goal is 50 percent target by 2050, and I am very confident that we’re on track to getting there.

Bill Loveless:  Yeah. On these social issues, do you think—I mean given the pressure that say, the Biden administration seems to want to bring to force disclosures by companies on environmental issues. I mean, do you think there’s a difference in what needs to be done by the government when it comes to the social, vis-a-vis the environmental issues.

Maria Jelescu:  Again, I think they go hand in hand, and I think it’s going to take us a little bit of time to figure out what metrics we need to use, what are the most important, what are the most relevant that how everybody is measuring them in the same way, so we’re not comparing apples and oranges. So I think it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the model. 

But I think that the intention is there, the path is very clear and this is just the matter of executing. So I’m very optimistic about us really moving and at the direction here in getting the results that we all expect and hope for.

Bill Loveless:  You know one of the topics you discuss is the women owned companies, and their access to venture capital. They are simply not gaining the access that male owned businesses have, talk to me a little bit about that Jully?

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yeah. So, excuse me. Yeah, I would call the numbers dismal, probably, of the amount of venture capital that is going to women led and women owned start-ups and firms. And this becomes a problem right, because if you’re not getting your venture capital seed money to get off the ground, it’s very difficult for you, you already starting at a disadvantage, especially now as I already mentioned the energy transition and sort of bigger renewable energy companies. 

If companies who buy up smaller organizations, and if women venture capitalists -- if women firms aren’t getting that venture capital money, they’re not going to have the resources and the capital, to be able to scale up, and it sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because if you’re not scaling up then you cannot hire more diverse work force, more women, or people color, and you either -- your company either doesn’t get off the ground or stays very, very small.

Maria Jelescu:  Bill, let me say something on this, because this is something very near and dear to my heart. I think access to capital is the last frontier of the Civil Rights Movement. And access to capital that catalyzes change, it creates opportunity, it’s extremely important. We picked the venture space in our article just because we had a lot of good research, and stats, and data on it and we wanted to highlight the shockingly low number right? And I think the number is two percent of all the venture funding went to women in 2020. That was in 2020 last year, which is unbelievable.

Jully Meriño Carela:  And it’s even smaller for people of color.

Maria Jelescu:  Absolutely. But again, I think that this applies to any other part of the eco-system to medium size companies to large size companies, it’s not necessarily just a venture problem, and that’s why I think facilitating access to capital for women and minority owned enterprises is so important.

Bill Loveless:  Right, yeah. And this -- a lot of a social or cultural changes it need to take place, right? I mean, there is – you write here that women also from these start-up companies often face different questions when they go seeking investments.

Jully Meriño Carela:  Right, you’re looking at sort of biases in full display, right? That the, I think we write that they’re ask different questions, more in terms of the risk and mismanagement, whereas men are asked questions about sort of the future outlook. And some of the things we read is how can we change that, what are some recommendations that we can do or to fix this problem? And it could be just having completely blind presentations or removing names from the deck or having a third-party entity, be the one who would presenting the deck instead of -- so the person within the organization, but it’s like very assertive, I mean it’s such, it’s kind of shocking, and again it’s just two percent of venture capital going to women on firms, and then also the fact that they’re getting, ask different questions, it’s again the societal sort of biases in full display.

Bill Loveless:  Well, before it go, let’s talk a little bit more about the Women in Energy Program, I find it encouraging that, you say there are so many young women from various backgrounds who are still interested in energy, despite these difficulties, perhaps encouraged by some signs of progress. But what you seek to do through the Women in Energy Program, and what are you up to these days?

Jully Meriño Carela:  Yeah, so we seek to -- our aim is to get women into the energy sector, women interested in the energy sector. I mentioned before we work with our student populations from various partner institutions as well as alumni and professional women. And we offer, again I mention mentorship, career advice, we put -- we try to connect them with role models and people who look like them, top senior women in the energy sector, bringing them for more intimate conversations, and spaces where they couldn’t -- they wouldn’t have a chance to meet them, otherwise as well as just expose them to different areas in the energy sector they can work. 

And also provide them with tools, for example leadership or professional development workshops to hone in those softer skills that you need to succeed in the industry. And so these days, we are actually very excited, we again have expanded into Tufts and MIT and trying to build that Boston network.

Bill Loveless:  Well, then Maria, you’re seeing, you’re impressed by what you see when you talk to some of these young women?

Maria Jelescu:  Absolutely. And I think that’s also very interesting Bill is that the scope of our efforts, right, like we start with students, and we will always have a big focus on students, because we’re affiliated with the universities. So we have a lot of programming catered towards the students, events, mentorship, seminars, but we also focus on senior women in the C-suite, on their way to the C-suite, women on boards, and we kind of cover the entire spectrum and I think that’s really interesting and exciting. 

And the other differentiating factor that I would say is, that we are not just a networking initiative, because of who we are, we are really rich in terms of content. And we empower women with knowledge and I think that’s really, really important.

Bill Loveless:  Well, it’s been a fascinating discussion about a topic that’s getting more attention now, but still not enough. Jully Meriño Carela and Maria Jelescu, thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.

Jully Meriño Carela:  Thank you, Bill, it was great talking to you.

Maria Jelescu:  Bill, it’s been a pleasure, thank you.

Bill Loveless:  For more on Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy, including a link to the commentary we discuss today, find us on the web at, and on social media @ColumbiaUEnergy. And if you have a moment, give us a rating on your favorite podcast platform, it help us grow even more. For Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless, will be back again next week with another conversation.