NiSource wants women in leadership roles
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com October 28, 2012 7:28PM
Carrie Hightman, EVP & Chief Legal Officer of NiSource. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 30, 2012 6:07AM
Although Northwest Indiana might rank low among congressional districts in the nation for the gap in pay between men and women, at least one local company is taking steps to help its female employees.
Utility company NiSource has created a program, called Building the Next Gen: Women in Leadership, to help encourage its female employees. Carrie Hightman, executive vice president and chief legal officer and also the company’s highest-ranking woman, helped start the program a little more than a year ago.
Hightman said she has been involved in female leadership throughout her career and wanted to start a program to help develop other women around her.
“Utilities are not necessarily the most female-friendly environment,” she said.
The program kicked off with a conference in November 2011 for the top 150 women at NiSource, who heard from female speakers in other high roles, such as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That conference spawned three new programs — holding other conferences for middle-level female employees, creating resource groups for women and starting a mentoring program.
Although the program has not specifically tackled the pay-gap issue, Hightman said, women are learning skills such as communicating that can help improve their pay.
“What data show is that often times instead of being direct about things, women are indirect,” she said. “The latter is much more watered down and less confident.”
Hightman said NiSource doesn’t track data on what, if any, pay gap exists but said that the company is working to increase the number of women and minorities in leadership positions.
The company has seen some success in that area so far, she said, although the work is still in its early stages.
Nick Meyer, a spokesman forNorthern Indiana Public Service Co., one of NiSource’s companies, said NiSource has increased its total number of female employees by about 10 percent since 2010.
“It’s all laying the pipeline for more women,” Hightman said.