Spring is a great time of year to celebrate the beauty and importance of our planet. As a leader in the production, supply, and consumption of energy, the United States and the Energy Sector leadership are being challenged to address our impact on the planet. As the leading electric utility company in Southern Arizona, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is making a case to prove the benefits of renewable energy to reduce our impact.
In Arizona, we have more sunny days per year than any other state – giving TEP the opportunity to take on the challenge of generating 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2035. If they make their goal, it will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 80 percent!
Not only is TEP challenging the energy sector status quo, but they are also challenging the traditionally male-dominated industry by promoting diversity and inclusion. Recently, TEP hired the first female CEO in the company’s and its umbrella company UNS Energy’s history – Susan Gray.
As a native Tucsonan, Susan attended the University of Arizona where she started out pursuing a biology major. Her father and grandfather were both electrical utility engineers, and she soon felt compelled to switch her major to engineering.
Susan’s career in the energy sector started when she was hired to work for TEP as a student intern. In just two short years she became a system engineer. She advanced through several other engineering and leadership roles before being named Vice President of Energy Delivery in 2015. And she didn’t stop there – she was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2018 and became President and Chief Operating Officer in 2020.
Today’s management of the company looks much different than when Susan started. Early on she grew accustomed to being the only woman in the room, but she never let her gender or people’s perceptions of her get in the way of being successful. She now credits the company’s leadership for challenging its own bias and promoting inclusive ideas.
“I enjoy solving problems and I think that’s what engineers do, but I think I enjoy solving people problems more, and I realized that I had a knack for bringing people together to solve those problems. I found myself in an unofficial leadership role, and I just thought that I could make a bigger difference if I took the leadership path.”
As a visible female role model in one of the least gender-diverse parts of the economy, Susan is helping to break down the traditional fears women might have about STEM industries. While there are still far too many obstacles preventing women from entering this sector – Susan’s journey from intern to leadership is an incredibly inspiring challenge to the world to break down those barriers. We know how important it is for girls and young women to see other women in leadership roles, demonstrating that diversity and inclusivity can bring different perspectives and life experiences that aid industries in challenging their own hiring and leadership processes.
Susan took that challenge one step further by becoming a founding member of TEP’s Women in Energy Group, which seeks to develop, mentor, and inspire women in the energy industry.
There is no question about her commitment to the Tucson community either. Susan is a longtime member of the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson and is a member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. She also serves on the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona committee that helped provide COVID-19 relief to vulnerable populations.
I selected Susan for this month’s #ChoosetoChallenge spotlight because of her passion for philanthropy and her commitment to being an inclusive, collaborative, and inspiring leader.