EVEN IN 2020, BEING A WORKING WOMAN can mean working more hours for less pay. Ashley Robinett wants to help change that. As a member of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), Robinett joins more than 7,000 women who work together to create progress and equality for all women.
A diverse community of high achievers and thinkers, the organization serves as a model for a future where leadership has no gender. At the heart of the forum are the 35 women around the world who, as part of the IWF’s Fellows Program, meet in person and virtually to set the organization’s agenda and guide it forward. Robinett never imagined she would be part of such an organization, but it has become an important tool for her personal and professional growth. “It’s really empowering,” said Robinett. “We are committed to learning from each other, to growing as a team and getting a lot of in-classroom academic guidance on how we can be the best possible leaders wherever we are and really make a difference, inside our organization, and within our communities.”
As the current vice president of public relations for Alabama Power, Robinett is a long way from the chemical engineering degree she earned at Auburn. Her internship with Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of parent company Southern Power, helped her land her first job on the financial engineering team.
“I really have had the most amazing experience being able to learn and see and do different things across the enterprise, from more technical roles to more financial roles to environmental roles.”
Southern Company’s (parent company of Alabama Power) leadership noticed her passion for expanding her skillset and continued to challenge her with new roles. Over the years, she’s managed strategic environmental issues and served as the assistant to the executive vice president, president and chief officer.
She also worked in Southern Company’s fuel services organization managing emission allowance procurement and strategic environmental issues. In 2008, she returned to Southern Power to manage its resource planning, risk analysis and business case development functions like renewable energy.
Before becoming vice president of public relations, she served as the vice president of corporate real estate, where she oversaw the company’s land holdings in support of business objectives through land management, acquisition and sales.
“Because I was able to couple my engineering mindset with a communication skillset, I’ve been able to really fulfill a lot of my desires and passions here at Southern Company. And that’s really where I see my home. A lot of my lifelong friends who I’m able to work with are here, and also the opportunity to be challenged and to truly make a difference.”
When Southern Company nominated her for the fellowship with the IWF, she was both humbled and surprised. Having spent most of her life in Alabama, she says it was an incredible opportunity to suddenly connect with an international organization with members in 33 countries on six continents.
One of the group’s main goals is to empower women in male-dominated fields to achieve new levels of success. A key component of the IWF is its mentorship program, which connects women of different backgrounds and professions with mentors who can provide advice and career insight.
“Being able to learn from my mentor and have this woman to bounce things off that’s not just in the office next door or upstairs is so valuable. It’s nice to have someone outside of your industry, or outside of your company, to really lean on and ask some tough questions about how I grow and learn in this environment.”
The insight and experience gained through the IWF has translated into success in Robinett’s own career.
Robinett was the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer award from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, as well as the 2019 Young Alumni Achievement Award, the alumni association’s top honor for young alumni.
Robinett said she feels this organization is important because it gives women a chance to grow and improve themselves.
“I think we tend to focus on making sure everyone around us is okay and we do the best we can, given our situation, but [the fellowship program] created an opportunity for me to be very intentional in growing and developing myself, while also creating a network of women that I can lean on and I have leaned on during a lot of this.”