The nation’s first regional transmission organization, MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.) made history on December 10, 2015 by appointing two African Americans to its board of directors. Phyllis Currie, the former General Manager of Pasadena Water and Power, and Mark S. Johnson, the former Vice President of Transmission Operations for Pacific Gas and Electric, were unanimously approved during MISO’s annual Members meeting.
Currie and Johnson’s terms begin in January 2016, and as Directors they will serve three-year terms. There is a three-term limit on this appointment. Currie is highly credentialed, having matriculated at UCLA and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and her background includes significant executive experience with the City of Los Angeles prior to joining Pasadena Water and Power. Johnson has 35 years experience as a utility executive and is expert at developing transmission and distribution “best practices,” and is well versed at process improvement and operational and capital investment.
Both additions to the board highlight MISO’s commitment to diversity, not just in the services it offers, but also in its leadership composition. Across the nation, African Americans are underrepresented in board leadership, a reality that detrimentally affects employment and supplier diversity practices down the line. As Earl “Butch” Graves, CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine recently noted,
Corporate directors govern the policies of CEOs and C-suite executives, ensuring senior management is accountable for a corporation’s hiring and promotion practices; billion-dollar spending decisions regarding suppliers, including media; and contributions to philanthropic organizations and causes, among other matters,” Graves added. “So if African Americans are not represented on a given board, it becomes highly unlikely that African Americans will be given fair consideration when that company selects senior managers, including CEO, CFO, and chief administrative officer positions; identifies Tier 1 or Tier 2 suppliers to provide the array of products and services-from legal and IT consulting to construction and advertising-that corporations purchase on an annual basis; and funds black-oriented civic organizations, community development efforts, and educational programs.
By appointing two new African American board members, MISO is being responsive to the growing need to better diversify corporate America.
MISO employs roughly 900 employees, and its board members are all independent from the member or user companies with which MISO operates. MISO is “an Independent System Operator (ISO) and the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) that provides open-access transmission service and monitors the high voltage transmission system throughout theMidwest United States, and Manitoba, Canada and more recently integrated a southern region which includes much of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. MISO operates one of the world’s largest real-time energy markets.”
Helping to maintain the flow of energy is an important task, and MISO has received accolades in the past for its use of technology, innovative practices, and excellence in operations from a range of organizations, including INFORMS, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, Computerworld Magazine, The Utility Wind Integration Group, and the Open Compliance and Ethics Group. Perhaps with this latest appointment, MISO will be primed for greater recognition for its commitment to diversity.