WEN is a Win: New Rice Chapter of Women’s Energy Network starts with momentum

Earlier this month, Sima Jani, a second-year MBA student, stood before a room of mostly women and introduced herself. It was a moment the president of the new Rice chapter of the Women’s Energy Network (WEN) had waited a year for.

“I didn’t know how to start a club,” she explained. “I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I just knew that I came to the Rice MBA program to switch into the energy industry.”

In educating herself about her newly chosen field, she’d uncovered a startling statistic — women account for only 7.4 percent of the energy industry. “I thought it was some kind of mistake,” Jani said. Although experts say the numbers are increasing, she knew she would have to seek out a mentor to learn more about the industry, network and navigate her career.

That’s when she discovered the national chapter of WEN.

Women’s Energy Network

Jani met Amy Allen at a National Association of Women MBAs gathering. Allen was director of community initiatives at WEN’s professional chapter, and she wanted to help. It was during their first conversation that Jani ran with the idea to start a Rice chapter. Along with the help of Professor in the Practice of Energy Management Bill Arnold, the office of student services, and the career management center, Jani and Allen turned that idea into a reality.

“When I first got involved, I had four primary interests: to learn about the industry, capitalize on great resources, network with professional women, and potentially get an internship.” But over the past year, that vision has grown.

“Today my mission is more about giving back and building a strong network of female students who are interested in a career in the energy industry.” Her plan is to open the chapter membership to women all over campus —undergraduates, graduate students and alumni at Rice — as well as inviting students and alumni from University of Houston and St. Thomas chapters to events.

The mission at the Rice chapter of WEN is to retain and develop women in the energy industry by fostering relationships, offering mentorship programs, and developing leadership competencies and industry insight. All of these will require strategic partnerships with professionals, companies, educational institutions and organizations. “WEN will bring all of us who are passionate about women, education, leadership and energy together,” Jani said.

Inaugural event

After months of planning, the Rice chapter of the Women’s Energy Network hosted a kickoff lunch November 1 with a panel of four WEN members from BP, GE Energy, Whitaker Oil and Gas, and Deloitte. The topic of discussion? "Navigating Your Career Path in the Energy Industry." Jani moderated and audience members — half MBAs, half graduate and undergraduate students from other areas at Rice — got a glimpse into each panelist’s career journey. Varying in age, experience and job titles, the speakers were able to respond with something for everyone — from finding your communication style and embarking on an energy career from another industry to being the only woman in the room on deals in countries where the culture and climate differ greatly from the U.S.

Afterwards, amidst the crush of conversation audience members held with panelists, Jani said, “I hope all students in this room will take the opportunity to join WEN, become active members and, together, help create a bigger and more diverse group of female students who make the change they want to see for women in the leadership world.”

Along with special guests, Dagmar Beck, director of the Professional Master's Program at Wiess School of Natural Sciences, and Bill Arnold, professor in the practice of energy management at the Jones School, WEN would like to thank Brandy Copley from GE Energy, Hannah Im from BP, Karen Walding-Zuntych from Whitaker Oil and Gas, and Ashley Gibson from Deloitte for sharing their time and experiences during the luncheon. For more information, visit business.rice.edu/wen.