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International Women’s Day Q & A with Gwen Frasier, GM of Power Delivery Operations

Empowering the Future: Q & A with Gwen Fraiser, General Manager of Power Delivery Operations, as She Reflects on Over 40 Years of Leadership in Energy and Inspires Women in STEM

As we celebrate the spirit and achievement of remarkable women around the world on this  International Women's Day, we sat down with Gwen Fraiser,  General Manager of Power Delivery Operations with over 40 years of dedicated service at Southern Company. A true trailblazer in the energy sector, Gwen has not only carved an exceptional career but has been a steadfast pioneer for women in energy. Today, we have the unique opportunity to delve into her remarkable career, gaining insights and inspiration as she shares her invaluable experiences and advice for women entering the STEM field.

Q: Tell us about your 40 years of service and some of the skills that have helped you to make an impact?

Gwen: I’ve worked with multiple Southern Companies: started with Alabama Power, followed by Southern Company, Georgia Power, Gulf Power (GPC) and back to GPC for a third time in 2021. I call this time at GPC, my “final tour”.

When I got to Bulk Power Operations (BPO) in 1995, I recognized I liked “thinking on my feet” and making decisions quickly, sometimes without all the needed information. Real-time operations plays to my strengths.

After eight years in BPO, I realized I knew things about our fundamental business, how the power system works and connects to our utility neighbors, that very few people did. I grew my reputation based on that expertise and carried it with me to manage the Gulf Control Center in 2005 and the Georgia Control Center in 2013. I used the same knowledge in Transmission Planning as well and even in Transmission Maintenance.

I love opportunities to help others understand how we fit into a much bigger picture. Now I have responsibility for the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Control Centers, Operations Support (T&D), and the GSS team.

Q: Can you share some of your career highlights? 

Gwen: My role as the Southern Transmission Maintenance Manager here at GPC in 2010 was most challenging. Besides me, the only females in Power Delivery in South Georgia were four Admins, one Protection and Control Engineer, and me (The Boss). I had line and substation maintenance crews, and I learned a lot about the field side of Transmission and had great support from a lot of wonderful guys. I figured out quickly, the most important people in the room were the field folks; if the lights were out, no one cared if I walked down the street.

Q: What advice would you give to your past self before entering a Career in Energy? 

Gwen: When you’re in a “man’s world,” it’s easy to suffer from imposter syndrome. I’d tell my younger self:

  • Have more self-confidence and more courage.
  • Women lead differently and it can be a real advantage.
  • Don’t doubt your leadership ability; it will garner loyalty.
  • Recognize the men that support you and ask for more of it.
  • It won’t be easy to balance work/life but you’ll figure it out.

Q: As a highly competent engineer, why did you decide to stay with this company for 40 years? 

Gwen: We have such a wide range of opportunities at Southern Company. The power system keeps evolving. Technology keeps improving. Challenges are growing. You can learn something every day!

Our primary mission is to “keep the lights on” while being safe, clean, reliable, and affordable. That’s a very noble cause. Without electricity, society falls apart. Being part of the team that is responsible for ensuring the lights stay on is special. Our people are special. That’s why I’m still here.

Q: What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the field of energy/ hands on jobs?

Gwen: Consider the tougher roles, especially if in the field, and conquer them early. It will give you confidence for everything else that follows. Protection and Control, for example, is as close to rocket science as we get. If you understand that area, you’ll have a huge advantage in everything else we do in Power Delivery.

Q: When you started your engineering career, often you would be the only woman in the room. Even today, sometimes you are the only woman in the room. How did you deal with and what advice would you give women in male dominated fields?

Gwen: I built good relationships with the people I worked with. I was willing to ask questions if I didn’t understand.

I showed up, I learned what I needed to do, and I did it well. Some men questioned if I could do the job. My goal was to show them I would and often better than they did. There are a couple of examples of tools in the control center right now that I created 25 years ago.

The more you know and understand, the more personal power you have to contribute. Demonstrating Superior Performance, working hard, wins supporters and allies. Find your “thing” and become an expert at it.

Watch a snippet the interview here: video.