Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Women’s Leadership at Consumers Energy

Cathy Reynolds, left, and Patti Poppe review company documents.

Alice Simoneau made the first inroads to women’s leadership at Consumers Energy when she was elected treasurer of the Saginaw and Bay City utilities in 1913.

“Miss Simoneau is the only woman in Michigan who holds the position of treasurer of companies whose total capitalization reaches several million dollars,” stated a 1913 Detroit News Tribune article.

Fast forward 100 years. In honor of Women’s History Month, we congratulate Alice and all women who have made the electric and natural gas business better for those we serve.

Patti Poppe, Vice President of Customer Experience, Rates and Regulation and Cathy Reynolds, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, share their experiences as our first female executive officers.

Reynolds and Poppe were very recently named executive officers. They had different career paths and experiences, but one thing resonated with them both: Hard work is the key to success for anyone – man or woman.

Reynolds stresses the importance of being true to oneself. “You don’t need to hide emotions,” she said. “You may need to temper them at times, but if you act different than who you really are people will see through you and won’t find you relatable.”

Poppe credits the opportunities she received to the women who came before her, “I benefitted because other women blazed the trails before me and some great men who gave me opportunities that paved the way.”

The “glass ceiling” notion has not been something Poppe or Reynolds have experienced. Poppe said that is partly because of her willingness not to rule herself out.

“It is hard work to achieve and climb the corporate ladder, you have to put in a lot of energy and hours,” said Poppe, “I believe we hold ourselves back more than the institution does.”

Poppe and Reynolds both have advice for aspiring women leaders.

  • Poppe cautions to not close doors before you take on the challenge. For example: Don’t say no to a job because you feel like it might not be flexible enough. “Don’t turn down an opportunity because it might create a problem. If it becomes a problem, then use it as an opportunity to make a change.”
  • Reynolds recommends the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. “It was a great resource full of tips. I’ve shared a lot of the information with the leadership team and we’ve become better leaders because of it. You can go as far and as fast as you want, you just have to put in the work.”