Vice President of Risk Management Joy Gao leads Sempra’s risk management, insurance, physical security, and pension and trust investments functions while serving as a champion for women across our family of companies.
Since joining Sempra in 2002, Gao has served in various roles of increasing responsibility across multiple functions. She also currently serves as an executive sponsor for Sempra’s employee resource group for women, a group committed to helping cultivate a sense of belonging while providing networking and career advancement opportunities for women.
Learn more about Joy Gao in this Q&A:
Tell us more about your current role and the responsibilities of your team at Sempra.
At an overarching level, my team oversees the company’s enterprise risk management, including evaluating enterprise, credit and trading/market risks. On the insurance side, we procure and manage approximately 40 insurance programs across our enterprise, which represent the diversity of our business platforms, assets and functions in the communities we serve.
My team also manages the company’s pension and trust investments, and physical security. Overall, my team helps the company face climate-related weather events, geopolitical challenges and other uncertainties, with a view to helping the company to remain on strong financial footing while maintaining reliable and resilient energy networks for our customers.
How does your team help enable the global energy transition?
My team is committed to helping enable the energy transition and mitigating climate risks for the nearly 40 million consumers we serve. Our department helps support important boots-on-the-ground work happening in the communities in North America in which we operate, such as San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (SDG&E) wildfire mitigation programs.
For example, with respect to credit risk, we are front and center when vetting potential commercial counterparts for the company’s new initiatives and investment projects. With respect to enterprise risk management, we also work with the strategy group to help make sure that any emerging risks are properly incorporated in the company’s strategies.
On the insurance side we are trying to make sure that when taking on new initiatives, we transfer residual risk to insurers to the extent possible, in an effort to allow us to maintain a strong balance sheet to take on more sustainability-related opportunities.
You are one of the executive sponsors for the women’s employee resource group here at Sempra. Why are groups like this important in creating Sempra’s high-performance culture?
We always say that championing people is at the core of our values. I think this employee resource group is incredibly beneficial because it gives us leaders the opportunity to really hear employee questions and concerns. By engaging in constructive dialogue at this level, we are working to make our workplace an even more trusting community where people can feel good about coming to work each day.
As I advanced my own career, I was lucky that my jobs allowed me to expand my professional network. If you look at other employees who either are just starting their careers or haven’t had a lot of in-person networking opportunities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they may have not had the same opportunities. I hope to contribute, sponsor and share the contacts I have with our employee resource group for women. Not only do I hope to guide these employees in this way, but I also hope I’m helping Sempra maintain its strong ability to retain employees while advancing a sense of belonging.
March is Women’s History Month. What memories or thoughts come to mind as you reflect on the month?
In terms of feminism and women’s rights, I’ve seen things change so suddenly in China, where I was born. When thinking about the generation I grew up in compared to my grandmother’s generation, there was a massive societal shift in a short amount of time. When my grandmother was a girl, she had her feet bound. In my generation, feminism and women’s rights were key parts of everyday life. For example, in school in China, we would often recite the slogan, “women hold up half of the sky.” Students were evaluated based on their academic achievements, not their gender. As a result of this upbringing, my three sisters and I have very strong personalities and I am personally passionate about women’s equality.
At Sempra we talk a lot about innovation, and I believe diversity and inclusion is a vital part of maintaining our innovative and high-performance employee culture. Every day I am committed to building a safe environment and advancing D&I so our employees can feel that they can bring their full selves to work each day. When an employee feels like they can be themselves, they will share new ideas, improve processes, and innovate — and that’s what will keep pushing our company forward.
We can’t just believe in feminism, we need to take action to demonstrate the belief and be an active member of a feminist community. We can each be a leader in this area, regardless of our title. By doing so, we can advance equality.