In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re putting the spotlight on three women who are having an impact on the Office of Fossil Energy (FE). Learn more about their roles in FE and their advice for young girls and women who may be interested in working in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
Amy Sweeney is the Director of the Division of Oil and Natural Gas in FE’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas. In this role, Amy manages FE’s natural gas regulatory program, which permits the imports and exports of natural gas. Before joining FE, she worked for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration and at the U.S. Census Bureau. She says, “I feel very lucky to be in a role where I get to serve my fellow citizens while also being at the center of some of the most important energy issues of the day.”
Amy believes that equal representation is very important in every field, but particularly in those where women haven’t had the opportunity to be as involved—such as energy. She said, “I think as we progress as a society, we see how valuing diversity of opinion, background, and perspective leads to greater creativity and output. Having women contribute at every level in an organization is a key part of that equation.”
And as a mom to two young girls, she’s encouraged to see that her daughters have had more opportunity to explore a greater diversity of subjects, including science. Amy said she believes it’s important for girls to have the opportunity to explore all subjects to help them identify their strengths and interests.
“My advice to any young person exploring options is not to be afraid to try new things,” Amy said. “You may surprise yourself with what you’re good at. And, in whatever path you choose, perseverance is the key, as I believe the opportunities will come if you are willing to put in the work.”
Sarah Forbes is a scientist within the Government Affairs and Analysis Division of FE’s Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management. Sarah works on the regulatory, policy, and engineering challenges associated with demonstrating and deploying new fossil energy technologies. Before working at DOE, she worked for the World Resources Institute and at FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Sarah believes that women should absolutely be involved in the science and energy fields, as women have been behind many significant technological and scientific advances throughout history. She says, “Women are scientists and energy experts, and we shouldn’t allow society or culture to keep our scientific minds quiet.” And while women in the United States have many opportunities available to engage in STEM, she said it’s important to remind ourselves of how girls in many parts of the world still don’t—either because it isn’t allowed or because they are never given the opportunity. “It is important that we give these girls a chance, that we let their scientific minds be heard,” she said.
For young girls interested in pursuing a career in science, Sarah encourages them to “Be serious in your studies and remember that the opportunity you have to learn is a gift.” She stresses the importance of taking your time to really understand the material and to not be afraid to ask questions. She also encourages girls not to be intimidated by others.
Erica Folio is a program manager in the Division of Upstream research within FE’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas. At DOE, she has worked with the onshore unconventional and offshore spill prevention research programs. Currently, her work focuses on produced water.
In her position at DOE, she says she has experienced first-hand how women’s skills and expertise play a substantial role in ensuring the success of scientific organizations. And, she believes women are critical to continuing that success in the future. She says, “There are still many technical challenges in the energy sector, and the contributions of women are key to discovering creative solutions.”
For young girls, interested in pursuing a science, energy career, Erica has one key piece of advice: “Always ask questions!” she said. “It is important to speak up when you don’t understand something. Similarly, seek out teachers and mentors that are open to answering (and exploring!) questions.”
At FE, we’re proud to celebrate the contributions of the women on our team, and we are excited to play a role in cultivating the minds of the next generation of scientific leaders.