Connect with us

Tech News

Black Women Smashing the Glass Ceiling in Energy

By Fern Gillespie
During the 1970s oil embargo, America was in an energy crisis. Cars lined up for miles to get gas in their tank, and energy bills soared. President Carter met with top energy officials, but there were no Black representatives from the energy field at the table. That’s when a group of Black executives in the energy industry formed the American Association for Blacks in Energy (AABE).
“American Association for Blacks in Energy is the activism organization for African-Americans and other people of color to keep them engaged on energy topics, careers in energy, entrepreneurs, and green energy. It’s comprised of Black energy professionals from across the country from different sectors of energy gas, nuclear, petroleum, electric, and steam and they discuss how energy has an impact on our quality of life and the fact how it impacts our community,” explained William Suggs, President of the American Association for Blacks in Energy New York Metropolitan Area Chapter. “African Americans and other people of color are energy users. They pay their bills at the utility companies but don’t know how this energy is generated, how it really drives the country, and what great careers they can accomplish by becoming energy professionals.”
The energy industry, which includes jobs in construction, manufacturing, utilities, professional services, and repair and maintenance, largely employs white men, according to the 2021 report on Diversity in Clean Energy. The study was organized by E2 Alliance to Save Energy, the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Energy Efficiency for All, Black Owners of Solar Services and BW Research Partnership.
The report showed that women make up less than 30 percent of all workers in clean energy, and racial and ethnic minorities account for 4 in 10 clean energy jobs. Black workers account for just 8 percent of those in clean energy but have the highest representation in the renewable generation sector at 10 percent and the lowest in renewable fuels, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles at 6 percent.
For Women’s History Month, Suggs, a senior specialist in Environmental Health & Safety for Con Edison, coordinated several top Black women professionals in the energy field to talk with Our Time Press. They are members of AABBE and range from executives to engineers. “These women have gone into a non-traditional work environment and taken on challenges. It’s been shown they make very sound decisions,” said Suggs. “These women have really broken their glass ceiling. They have shown that they can take on these high-profile positions and perform better than any man.”

Tanzee Silver
Tanzee Silver, an engineer and environmental sustainability professional, is a senior project manager for Ideanomics. She collaboratively develops and implements multi-sectorial energy conservation projects across the US including some of the largest transportation infrastructure networks – including the rail, airport and highway systems. This includes electric vehicle charging, green energies and solar. Over the last 14 years, she has focused her expertise on sustainable infrastructure implementation, product development and strategy.
While working at the Port Authority, she led the engineering team in the completion of 1 World Trade Center and the lighting retrofit of the Oculus. Aside from her accomplishments in her field, she also finds fulfillment and great reward in her mentoring work among youth interested in pursuing careers in sustainability and STEM. She holds leadership positions within the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) and serves as the director of the AABE Summer Energy Academy and designed the student curriculum. “The energy sector has a wide variety of fields. A lot of them don’t require a student to go to college. Just because a person doesn’t go to college doesn’t mean they are not career bound,” she said. “AABE is really adamant about showing students and adults the ropes on getting into the energy sector. And getting that network to help you navigate it as you want to grow in your field.” She has also served as the President of the NYC Professionals Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
Tanzee holds a bachelors in construction management from the Polytechnic School of Engineering at New York University and has earned numerous certifications, including the Project Management Professional (PMP), LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C & O+M), NYS Concrete Specialist and a Green Professional Certified Instructor. “When you look at the energy sector, especially sustainable energies and green tech, you do not see people of color, especially Black. The subset of black women is even smaller,” she said. “Right now, we’re working with and encouraging middle school in high school to start thinking about entering the energy sector.”

La-Asia Hundley
La-Asia Hundley, vice president of Facilities and Field Services at Con Edison, oversees approximately 600 diverse and dynamic team members across Con Edison and Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R). She oversees the company’s real estate group and the operation and maintenance of over 40 facilities, including planning and project management; engineering services; environment, health, and safety; and office services.
Hundley is also responsible for all the garages throughout Con Edison and O&R, as well as Automotive Engineering and Fleet Administration, and for providing logistics and emergency support services for the Company.
Hundley began her career with Con Edison over 20 years ago on the company’s leadership development program and has held several positions of increased responsibility in both Operations and Human Resources.
Before becoming vice president, she was a General Manager in Gas Operations. She and her team were responsible for the safety, reliability, and integrity of the gas distribution system in the Bronx. Hundley holds a BS in Business Management from Johnson C. Smith University and an MBA in Finance and Human Resource Management from CUNY Baruch College. She also has a juris doctor degree from St. John’s University School of Law and is admitted to practice in the State of New York.
She is a recipient of the YMCA Black Achievers in Industry award and Con Edison’s “Living Our Values” award, the company’s highest honor. Serving her community is a priority, and Ms. Hundley maximizes every opportunity to give back to others. She is a member of the Greenpoint YMCA Board and presently serves on the Finance and Fund Development Committee.
She is also a member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) – New York Metropolitan Area Chapter. As President of the North Manhattan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, she takes great pride in helping to help deliver innovative and impactful programming to the Washington Heights and Inwood communities, including both youth and senior programming.

Khadedra Hall
Khadedra Hall is a goal-driven operations manager at Con Edison who specializes in people management. She is a talented mentor, adviser, teacher, and leader with over 15 years in management, supervisory, and leadership experience in several capacities. Khadedra has led diverse union and management teams in the energy sector and participated in grievance, arbitration and contract negotiations. She created Con Edison’s first Credit and Field Operations Safety Team to coordinate and standardize safety information and training opportunities. In addition, she led her organization in one of the company’s biggest capital projects. She earned her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in 2008 from Monroe College.
An active member of AABE, she believes the networking and mentoring in the energy section has been beneficial to her career. “In the energy field, representation matters and in fields where we are the minority it is even more important that we provide mentorship to the new generation,” she said. “Mentors speak from experience and provide you the ability to learn from their success and challenges, they can stop you from making a mistake and guide you through tough career decisions.
Additionally, the self-development opportunities are endless you can attend both national and local conferences to learn about new technology and emerging companies within your field.” All of these experiences have provided her skills to be an entrepreneur. She established a taxation business where she prepares taxes for people in her community.
Reaching out to empower youth throughout the Brooklyn community, she co-founded the nonprofit Melquain Jatelle Anderson Foundation. As a community activist, she uses her skills and passion for leadership to give a voice to the voiceless in underserved communities. Khadedra’s positive impact has been honored. She is the recipient of many corporate, community and municipal awards. This includes being honored with a Con Edison 2022 Living Our Values Award for her commitment to safety, excellence and service to others and a citation from the Brooklyn Borough President’s office.

Tohma Gadson-Shaw
Tohma Gadson-Shaw, director of Supply Chain Sustainability and Supplier Diversity, is a Brooklyn native who grew up in the Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from Johnson C. Smith University and master’s degree in criminal justice and urban studies from Michigan State University. Prior to joining Con Edision’s human relations department in 2007, she worked as an investigator for U.S. government contracts.
At Con Edision, Tohma was on a two-year special assignment representing the company as a fellow in the CEO Action for Racial Equity led by PriceWaterhouse Coppers (PwC). Through the project, Tohma used her talents and passion to advance racial equity through public policy, created racial equity frameworks, provided education, and advocated to address health disparities.
Her community service initiatives and outreach as an active member of Harlem’s historic First Corinthian Baptist Church, Delta Sigma Theta and AABE. “I was intellectually curious about the journeys of other Black professionals and wanted to be in community with them. A colleague told me about AABE and from my first interaction with the AABE NYMAC leadership team lead by Bill Suggs,” she said. “It was clear to me that they made space for unlimited growth and opportunity. I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of the great work that they were doing.”
She has also brought her compassion to other parts of the world as a missionary to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa in 2008 to donate school supplies and clothes to India to deliver toiletries and clothing and to minister to the needs of people in quarantine due to illness. Tohma is the recipient of numerous awards for her outstanding humanitarian service.
She has received the Living Our Values (LOV) Award for exemplifying the community and the Black Achiever in Industry (BAI) Award from the Harlem YMCA. “As an African American woman, I understand the importance of representation and connection. Mentorship relationships can increase engagement, expand capabilities, and drive diversity within the workforce,” she said. “As such, I always make myself available to mentor or be a mentee when there is a rightsized relationship fit. I believe that relationships have power and the most powerful thing you can do is make meaningful connections with other people.”

Deborah Alabi
Deborah Alabi is an engineer with Environ Energy, a full-service energy consulting and management firm. It provides solutions centered around sustainability, energy efficiency, clean on-site power generation, energy resiliency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy procurement. She graduated with honors from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in 2021, with a major in mechanical engineering, a minor in psychology and a concentration in nuclear sciences and engineering.
“The decision to study nuclear sciences and engineering was sparked by my interest in the energy industry,” she said. “I was introduced to nuclear science through some of my other coursework and wanted to further investigate the fundamentals of nuclear energy and what role nuclear energy could play in the shift towards a cleaner energy future.”
In 2022, she completed her Master of Science in mechanical engineering with a specialty in Fluids at NYU Tandon. During her time at NYU, Deborah served as co-president of the NYU Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
She also served as president of the Collegiate Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) New York Metropolitan Area Chapter, where she’s still an active member and mentor, who admires pioneering women in energy. “These female figures paved the way in the energy industry not just for women, but for all the innovators of today,” she said.
One history-maker was Hazel O’Leary, who served as the seventh U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton and was the first woman and first African American to hold the position. “Although O’Leary was not in a STEM profession, she was able to significantly influence the energy in the industry,” said Deborah. “Acknowledging and spotlighting women’s achievements in the energy industry helps young women and girls of today see themselves taking on roles in the sector.”
For more information on American Association of Blacks in Energy New York Metro Area Chapter, please contact