By Adrienne Blume
HOUSTON -- The Women's Global Leadership Conference (WGLC) in Energy and Technology was given an
inspirational start on Tuesday morning by Amity Shlaes,
director of the 4% Growth Project at the George W. Bush
In her keynote address, Ms. Shlaes noted that the conference,
now in its tenth year, is not only about fossil energy, but
also about human energy. Innovation is key to keeping the
energy sector at the forefront of US economic growth, and more
of this innovation must come from women. "The message to women
today is to rise to the top to walk in the halls of power,
speak up, and improve your company as you do it," Ms. Shlaes
The director is a major proponent of what she calls "leaning
out"i.e., going out to obtain knowledge, and bringing
innovative ideas to the table to help businesses grow. Women
are often recruited to help rationalize, stabilize and
socialize a company, but they are not often found in
innovative, cutting-edge positions. That needs to change, said
Ms. Shlaes. Change starts with better education and ambition.
"Find ideas by attending conferences like this one, and bring
those ideas back to your company," she said. "After the first
innovation, take it to the next innovation."
Women can achieve greater audience by actively participating
in, and bringing about, change within their organizations. Ms.
Shlaes noted that innovation can and should be disturbing.
"Sometimes an individual idea can help the [larger] ideas grow.
You want to think about cooperation and collaboration, but
sometimes you want to think about something more," Ms. Shlaes
said. "You want to have the ability to lean out at the edge of
Ms. Shlaes outlined four principles for conference attendees
to actively participate in company innovation. First, she
advised women to add science to their education. "With that
knowledge comes the power that you want in the boardroom," Ms.
Shlaes said. She quoted First Lady Michelle Obama as saying,
"If we're going to innovate, we have to educate."
The second principle involves mentoring. Seek mentors as you
progress in your career, but recognize that there are limits to
the mentor/mentoree relationship, Ms. Shlaes cautioned. As it
is a super/inferior relationship, sometimes mentees fall into
the trap of helping to forward their mentor's ideas rather than
their own. "Your networking emphasis should not be on
friendship, but on knowledge," Ms. Shlaes noted.
Thirdly, "Be prepared for the chance that your company will
not be interested in the knowledge you bring," she said. In
that scenario, do not be afraid to leave your company and carry
your innovative ideas to a new business, Ms. Shlaes
The director's last principle involved work/life balance.
Often, she noted, the work/life balance is upset by
dissatisfaction with work, rather than by time-management
issues. "You may find happiness in a new business that has
longer hours. You might be happier because, in that new
company, you may even be the boss," Ms. Shlaes said.
The director closed her keynote address by telling
attendees, "Your industry is the most innovative in the world,"
and noted that women in the energy sector have ideas that will
make it grow faster and faster. "Lean out, go get the
knowledge, and bring it back to the table," Ms. Shlaes
said. "Lean out even further, and we'll all be glad you