Profiles in Leadership – Part 4
Four Women Who Are Making a Difference: Across the Merrimack Valley, women fill the corner offices and boardrooms in all types of professions and businesses. Here is a look at four female leaders who are making a difference in the workplace each day.
ANITA WORDEN – Co-CEO, Yaskawa-Solectria Solar
Anita Worden’s car is about 16 years old and she couldn’t be more thrilled. After all, she built the electric vehicle.
Worden, 48, is the co-founder of the Lawrence-based Yaskawa-Solectria Solar, a company with roots that began about three decades ago, when Worden was studying electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1989, Worden and her husband, James, created Solectria Corp., an electric and hybrid vehicle company. Anita Worden was still attending classes at MIT in Cambridge when she met James through a friend. James Worden was studying mechanical engineering. The couple had a mutual interest in solar-powered racing cars and they soon were developing the parts for them.
At one race, they were asked if solar cars were available for regular drivers.
The idea took hold, and the couple decided to create a car for commuters and everyday use. An investor teamed up with the Wordens, and soon they were making and selling cars.
“I hadn’t even graduated from MIT at the time,” Anita Worden says. “We were pioneers in that industry.”
The company went on to build hybrid vehicles, buses and trucks. But by the time the Wordens sold the company in 2005, the field was changing — hybrid was more popular — and they wanted to return to their more “purist” roots — electric. And solar electric was gaining momentum.
“We had technology in our vehicles that made sense for solar,” she says.
The company became Solectria Renewables. In 2014, the company was renamed Yaskawa-Solectria Solar after an acquisition. No longer focusing on electric vehicles, the Wordens focused on the solar and renewable business.
So, while she still drives her own electric car, the Wordens now have a solar panel system on the roof of their North Andover house. Their company headquarters also has a solar system. Soon, other buildings in their complex will as well.
Today, the company has about 200 employees, and it has offices in California, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The company occupies an 11,000-square-foot building in Lawrence, significantly larger than the original 4,000-square-foot space.
“We’ve seen what you can do with perseverance, energy and a passion for the world,” Anita Worden says.
As she reflects on her career, Worden says she’s proud of building two successful companies that have had a positive impact on the planet.
“I feel our mission is to change the mindset for people who have to think about our energy future,” she says.
Worden is also proud of her contributions to the Lawrence Partnership, where she has worked to help change the city’s ecology footprint and improve the economic outlook for the community.
“It makes me feel proud that we’ve done something to make a difference,” she says.
At home, Worden oversees another busy environment. The self-proclaimed soccer mom has three children, ages 12, 14 and 17.
“When I’m home, I’m not an executive in a business running a company; I’m Mom,” she says.
Born in England, Worden attended primary school in North Africa and Algeria before moving to Florida and going to high school there. While at MIT, she says, about 20 percent of the engineering school students were women. Today, it’s about 50 percent.
“That’s a remarkable change,” she says. “For me, that’s the model for where this world should be going.”