Throughout the month of March, NYPA will be featuring online profiles of professional women working at different locations and in different capacities throughout the Authority in honor of Women’s History Month. We provided a series of questions on career development, and each profile features personal insights on how each of these professionals reached their goals, both long term and day to day.
Dr. Anne Kress is a NYPA Trustee and the President of Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. She also serves on Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council and has helped draft higher education policy in both New York and Florida. She has been honored several times, including recognition by the New York State Senate as a Woman of Distinction, receiving the Athena Award from the Rochester Business Alliance as well as the Empowering Women Award from the Rochester YWCA.
How would you describe your experience so far as a NYPA trustee?
I have been very impressed with the level of engagement of the trustees and the quality and depth of information shared by NYPA leadership. Something that most of us take for granted every day—accessible, ready power—has been made visible to me: the visioning, research, planning, execution, coordination, assessment and resources that are required to keep this all-important system working effectively. I have also had the opportunity to visit the Frederick R. Clark Energy Center, tour the facility, and meet with NYPA staff there. Their commitment to their responsibilities, respect for the history and role of NYPA, and dedication to building a strong, innovative future was clear. There’s much to learn, and I am honored to sit at this table.
Were you aware that the Energy Industry had a “women problem” when you joined NYPA’s Board?
Honestly, I just assumed it. My appointment to the Board was based on my experience at Monroe Community College (Rochester) in strengthening workforce development and career pathway programming, so I am all too aware of the talent and skilled workforce challenges in technical fields. Attracting women to these fields is a particular difficulty whether the industry is energy or optics or advanced manufacturing.
The irony is that—because they are so underrepresented—women will find extraordinary career opportunities in these fields, but too often, they lack role models, encouragement, and consistent support to pursue and stay the course in what are (surprisingly) still nontraditional fields for women.
Do you think there is a role for our trustees in increasing and cultivating a workforce with diverse backgrounds?
NYPA Trustees play a significant leadership role in setting, supporting, and growing a culture at NYPA that values diversity in the workplace. Excuse the pun, but there is true power in diversity: it brings new ideas and new ways of thinking.
A few years back, a leader in health care spoke to me about the enormous changes coming in his field. He used a phrase that has stuck with me: “What brought us here won’t get us there.” Around the NYPA Board, we see the same thing in the energy industry: what brought us here won’t get us there. Adding new voices to the discussion means adding new solutions.
Do you mentor people? If yes, what do you feel is most important about that relationship?
Throughout my life, I have been privileged to have many mentors, and the lessons I learned from them prove invaluable each day. I don’t pretend for a moment to be as smart as most of my mentors, but I do think my obligation for their support is to pay it forward and mentor others.
In any mentor relationship, honesty is key. My mentors were generous in praising what I did well and honest in telling me what I needed to do better. That last part is never easy or fun to hear (or to have to share), but in the end, it always turned out to be more important and more helpful to build future success.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Up through my first years of graduate school, I was terribly shy. Though my grades were always good, I passed through my classes silently and invisibly. As research shows, this is not uncommon for young women, and our lack of voice has a negative impact on our future success—in school, in life, in work.
With some stern mentoring from one of my favorite faculty (the fearsome English department chair), I finally found my voice. So, I would tell my younger self to speak up, to put my ideas out there to be challenged and made stronger.