Mary Powell, Chief Executive Officer, Green Mountain Power

Courage in the face of adversity

Mary Powell

Like many women in energy, Powell considers herself an "accidental executive." Accident or not, Powell is one of the most powerful women in the industry as one of only five female CEOs of investor-owned utilities in the country.

Being a female business leader takes courage. And Powell's courage was tested when the company's focus on doing only what directly benefits customers was in jeopardy. Staff cuts became necessary, 35 percent specifically, including top tier executives. Powell made the cuts in order to turn the company around.

Powell is revered by current and past associates alike for her discipline transparency, mastery of leadership, and understanding of how organizations work and people behave, and the ability to influence those behavior patterns. Taking the reigns on GMP in 2008 when CEO Chris Dutton retired and having worked with him for at least 10 years prior, Powell had actually been determined as the best person to succeed him years before.

"She was a person on whom I came to rely for answers to tough questions. When we were teetering on the brink and bereft of ideas, Mary offered many ideas in cost saving which at first didn't make sense, but she was persistent, and I finally said yes to her," Dutton said in an interview with Vermont Woman. "It turns out her judgment was exactly what was needed to prevail. It took almost two years to fully implement the programs that Mary initiated, but that effort had great symbolic value -- it showed the regulators we did everything we could do, and it allowed us full cost recovery."

Playing with the big boys is no big deal for Powell. "I knew I was working in predominately male sectors, and there was a male code, but I never even thought about it," she told Vermont Woman.