In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women who are leading the way in positively transforming our communities through high-performance buildings.
Meet Joyce Mihalik, Chief Operating Officer at the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) and IMT board member, who shares how women are bringing the benefits of sustainable lifestyles to every community.
Why do energy-efficient and high-performing buildings matter to you?
Buildings are an essential part of achieving critical, widespread carbon reductions. More than that, as a society, buildings are our pathway to using significantly less resources in our daily lives.
As time has passed, I’ve come to live by the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” mantra. Even after all my work in the sustainability industry, I did not realize the value of this perspective until I saw my children start to act on it. Now that they are young adults, seeing what their generation wants and needs for their future continues to inspire me.
Today, we can all learn to use less and be happy with less. Efficiency is critical to climate change, but it’s also a critical part of a holistic shift to improve the health and prosperity of everyone in our communities.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of the opportunity I had while leading the Integrative Design Services group at Forest City Realty Trust to work with the team that built the energy and sustainability platform for the company’s entire portfolio. As part of that initiative, I got to meet amazing, talented people—and, by affiliation, I was exposed to a whole universe of people throughout the energy industry who really believe in climate change and are working diligently to beat it through their careers and in their daily lives. Their dedication continues to inspire me—we can all act more conscientiously to bring about the thriving communities we want to live in.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” What is the change or market transformation you would most like to see in the energy industry?
I want to see the energy industry prioritize innovation and transformation for everyone, in every community. For example, the industry has a lot left to do in small cities and townships. We are continuing to see exciting progress and action in the 50 largest American cities, but we still need a workable message and program of action for smaller cities and communities. Transforming the energy industry and minimizing climate change—and distributing the benefits of this progress to everyone—requires bringing that action to the local level. To do this, we must elevate the importance of sustainability and efficiency and provide all communities with the tools they need to make it happen. That’s what excites me about my position at the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC): the opportunity to work with government officials in 230+ communities of all sizes in Ohio to develop actionable, effective, and affordable solutions at the local level.
What is your advice for women in the energy and sustainability industries?
If you are looking to work in energy and sustainability, achieve a solid education in a scientific or disciplined field like environmental science, architecture, engineering, or accounting—we need more practitioners who can apply this expertise toward pragmatic solutions. While the industry is very broad, commit to developing your specific area of focus, whether it’s building energy efficiency or supply chain management. From there, never stop building on your expertise, and always be willing to branch out.