Canada: Powerful Women: Cynthia Chaplin

Last Updated: November 29 2016
Article by Zoë Thoms and Corrine E Kennedy

This week, our Powerful Women series profiles Cynthia Chaplin, Director on the IESO board, independent consultant and Associate at Elenchus. Cynthia shares her unique perspective on the challenges facing Ontario's energy sector having worked as an energy economist, consultant and regulator in Canada and the United Kingdom. She also shares practical advice for women starting their careers in the sector, including what has become our new mantra – be tough and be kind.

How did you get involved in the energy sector?

I have an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Toronto. I went on to do my Master's degree at U of T as well, and one of my areas of study was resource economics – it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer being in Canada and surrounded by resources. I figured it would help with getting a job – and it seemed like there would be lots of possibilities across the country.

After school I moved to Edmonton for personal reasons (ok, for my boyfriend at the time) and got my first real job. I was an economist for the government of Alberta, in the Department of Energy. This was in the early days of deregulation of the natural gas sector and there was a lot of provincial and national policy work going on around natural gas. It was a market in transition – with winners and losers – and therefore there was important policy work to be done.

I was drawn to policy development work because it involved a combination of economic analysis and public service. Right from the beginning I was interested in working for the public interest – although being right inside a government department you quickly see the sorts of compromises that are needed to move issues and policies forward.

When I moved back to Toronto, I joined the Ontario Energy Board on its technical staff. Now I was at the customer end of the natural gas industry – and taking part in the transition to a competitive retail market. This was also a time when the interplay between energy and the environment was coming to the fore. While at the OEB, I broadened my experience into the electricity sector. And I've remained in the gas and power business ever since. I had the opportunity to work for the gas regulator in the UK and then for BP before returning to Toronto where I joined the OEB again as a Board Member and later as Vice Chair and Chair/CEO (interim).

Working at the OEB was the perfect blend of economics and public service for me. Its role is so important – and I really believe fundamentally that structured, open public hearings can resolve key issues effectively and efficiently. I think quasi-adjudicative bodies are key democratic institutions – ensuring the people affected by a decision have a role in the decision making process.

What do you see as the key challenges facing Ontario's energy sector today and going forward?

We are seeing lots of important trends – and many of them are quite clear. I'm thinking of technological advancement, where the economics of becoming more self-sufficient (through distributed generation and storage) are getting better every day – and the opportunities for a more integrated grid are increasing. Also, there is increased momentum around policies to address climate change and reduce reliance on fossil fuels over time. And demographic trends are interesting too. We have an aging population, but younger generations have higher expectations around engagement – and technology can facilitate that engagement. And economic trends around increasing income disparity within a shift to more knowledge-based work.

But even though some of these trends are clear, there is uncertainty around how quickly these trends will each progress – and how they will interact and play out in the market and on the policy side. There is a real challenge to align economic policy, environmental policy, energy policy and social policy. That's a pretty tall order. And on top of that, those policies also have to get taxpayer and ratepayer acceptance, and they have to create a positive investment climate.

Before, it was easier to align economic and energy policy – it was the "power at cost" era which fostered the manufacturing sector and delivered lower rates through system expansion and a growing customer base. Electrifying the province brought significant economic and social benefits. The calculus is trickier now – and many of the policy drivers are pointing to higher costs. Will new technologies help us to meet these seemingly competing goals? Will we be able to drive down costs through greater efficiencies? How much disruption will there be in our energy sector? We are going to be responsible for figuring this all out.

After the policy makers set the framework, I think there is a significant role for the economic regulator to facilitate the implementation of policies in a fair and efficient way. The OEB can use its open, transparent, evidence-based processes to set the regulatory framework for a number of the issues which will need to be resolved. And as part of that, let's learn from others. So many other jurisdictions are wrestling with the same issues. And we also need to explore as many collaborative ways as possible for resolving issues. We are seeing interesting initiatives in the United States, where a variety of stakeholders – with different interests and drivers – are working together to develop proposals to put before the regulator.

What are the key challenges and opportunities that you see for women as leaders? Are there are any challenges or opportunities that you think are more critical or relevant in the context of the energy sector?

I think there is a lot of potential for women leaders in the energy sector. There is going to be a lot of change and a lot of uncertainty or ambiguity going forward. I think women leaders can really thrive in those conditions.

Demographic drivers will be a factor – there are going to be a lot of retirements as the baby boomers move on (hopefully!) to other pursuits and clear a path for tomorrow's leaders. There will also be challenge, though, from greater consolidation in the electricity sector. And more women are preparing themselves for leadership positions in the sector – through greater participation in the STEM areas, law and economics.

I do feel a bit conflicted in this area. I want to believe in a true meritocracy – but I recognize that I come from a privileged position. My socio-economic background, my access to education and my very good luck in terms of assignments and mentors have all had a significant impact on my career success. I think one of the key challenges is to facilitate advancement for all women, and not just the privileged professional elite. We are in a sector which has a very significant component of highly-trained, highly-skilled individuals. That's not going to change – in fact it will probably increasingly be the case. We need to make sure that women are well positioned – through training of all types – to take up the important innovative work that will be needed in the sector.

What advice would you give to a woman starting her career in the energy sector?

  1. Leverage a great boss Bosses are just like teachers – you need to be able to adapt to all kinds, but when you are lucky enough to get a real gem, you want to leverage that for all its worth. Learn as much as you can – observe what they do and why it works and ask them for feedback (don't wait for the dreaded performance assessment!). I knew my first boss was great – but I didn't realize how great until I had been in the workforce much longer and realized what an incredible range there is in terms of skill, compatibility, empathy and leadership.
  2. Find mentors Don't be shy – ASK! If you are genuine and respectful, I can't imagine anyone saying no. You need a mentor (who's not your boss) to bounce ideas off of, to learn from, and to share experiences with. You need a peer group and you also need relationships with more senior and more experienced people – men and women!
  3. Stay engaged beyond your job Read the journals – follow the online discussions – know the issues – develop some opinions – share them – listen to other opinions – refine your thinking – repeat.
  4. Work hard, but work smart Don't let perfectionism get in the way of completion! Look beyond Ontario for opportunities and greater learning. Exercise your right to choose and recognize that all choices involve trade-offs. Be clear to yourself about the choices you make – and then DON'T beat yourself up about them. Whether it's parents, or kids, or lifestyle, or education, there are so many important things in life, and a career is only one of those things.

Be tough and be kind.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Zoë Thoms
Corrine E Kennedy
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.