Amy Broadie
Enbridge employee Kelly Massine practices extinguishing a tank fire at Ansul Fire School in Marinette, Wis. (Submitted photo)

Amy Broadie speaks about leadership at the 2014 CTB Women's Business Summit in Bismarck. (Submitted photo)
There are three things that I get excited about in my work in the energy industry. One of them is safety, which aligns remarkably well with my role as a safety coordinator at Enbridge. The other two have much less to do with my job and much more to do with who I am. These include leadership and, more specifically, women and their capacity as leaders within the energy industry. It is no secret that men far outweigh the women in this sector. Leadership roles, in the traditional sense, are particularly devoid of women.

Working for Enbridge has created a unique intersection of industry and empowerment for me as a woman. It is typical for me to be the sole woman on a committee or the only woman in the room at a project meeting. On active jobsites in the field, I rarely see other women. These circumstances can prove challenging; fortunately, I am very fond of challenges.

Despite the challenge of frequently being a "lady soloist" in my industry, I am blessed to work for a company that respects women in the workplace. Perhaps of the utmost importance is that leaders in my organization and my coworkers empower women to act. While I do have a tendency to get fired up about the issue of women working in the energy industry, my job gives me outlets to appropriately suppress, start or spread that fire accordingly.

Suppressing fires

The most enlightening experience of my career as a woman at Enbridge happened in May 2014 at Ansul Fire School in Wisconsin. Over the course of three days, I learned to fight 20 different kinds of fires. These were not trashcan fires; I am talking about 50-foot-tall pressure fires and 3-D obstacle fires involving burning tanks and trucks.

For an occupational safety and health professional, it was a special type of dream-come-true training. I was in a class with six of my Enbridge coworkers and about 20 more from other companies. Needless to say, I was the only woman in that class.

It was enlightening to be paired with workers from other industries, many of whom worked on production lines. It was obvious to me that these other employees were not accustomed to working around women. What I was subjected to during that training is exactly what I imagine it was like for a woman working in a man's world decades ago.

At one point, one of my Enbridge coworkers asked me if I was tired of the rude comments about women and the ignorance of the knuckleheads from the other companies; he jokingly offered to knock some of their teeth out if I wanted him to. Other men from my Enbridge group encouraged me in times when I doubted my ability to handle heavy, high-pressure equipment. They were my cheerleaders and my teammates. They even carried my 54-pound fire extinguisher for me on day three when my arm felt like it was going to fall off.

At Enbridge, I work with forwardthinking men who have respect for women and a strong team spirit; they create a work environment where I can do my job effectively. While learning to suppress actual fires at fire school, my desire to encourage other women at Enbridge to start and spread a different type of fire was kindled.

Starting fires

Enbridge has an enterprise-wide initiative called Women@Enbridge (W@E). The goal of this initiative is to add business value by strengthening and supporting the development of women. Until 2014, W@E was only present in some of the bigger corporate offices like Toronto and Houston. I shared my Ansul Fire School experience with senior leaders in my regional office as a framework for justifying why W@E would serve our employees well.

We assembled a team to create an active W@E group in North Dakota. This local W@E group has developed unique opportunities for all employees -- men and women -- to work collaboratively on skill building, community activities and talent development. The focus is not on gender; rather the burning desire is to create awareness about the diversity and talents within our workforce. An example of something W@E has done locally is hosting a coffee break session called "Speaking from Experience" with some of the veteran employees in the region. Almost 60 Enbridge employees tuned in to learn what it takes to succeed for 30 years in the energy industry. The type of energy that results from this type of employee engagement starts fires in a workplace.

Spreading fires

It is not enough, however, to simply keep these ideas and resources inside the walls of Enbridge. W@E initiatives are spreading into the greater energy community. For example, one of our events related to women's leadership was open to the public in July 2014. That event attracted participation from 19 other companies, both inside and outside the energy industry. Over the past year, I have enjoyed opportunities to speak publicly about these Enbridge initiatives and many more at business and safetyrelated events. Collaboration across the energy industry and within the surrounding communities fuels the development of relationships. This is important for women working in the industry, as well as for men, and for organizations as a whole.

As a woman in the energy industry, I am extremely proud to work for Enbridge and to have opportunities to work collaboratively with other companies. I dream of the day when the idea of groups like W@E and other national organizations (e.g., Association of Women in Energy, Women's Global Leadership Conference in Energy, etc.) dedicated to women in all types of industries will disappear. If employers and employees continue to break down barriers and empower each other, gender-specific professional groups will become obsolete. Other types of professional organizations will replace them with catchy titles like People@Company Doing Really Cool Stuff (P@C). I envision P@C as a total workforce effort in which people learn from each other, support each other and truly invest in their communities. The flame for a group like that would burn for a very long time.

Amy Broadie is a safety coordinator at Enbridge, a North American energy company that provides pipeline transportation. Based in Minot, she specializes in safety culture development, leadership and contractor safety management. Every day, Amy strives to take people and organizations to places they've never gone.