By Hailey Wilson
Take risks. Be authentic. Seize opportunities that help you grow.
Those are Ananda Baron’s ingredients for success, and she knows something about success. The PG&E senior director of community relations is among the winners of the San Francisco Business Times’ “40 Under 40” awards, which recognizes some of the most successful young professionals in the Bay Area.
Baron, who oversees the energy company’s charitable giving and employee volunteering programs, said she’s honored to receive the award.
“I’ve always been very mission and values-driven personally and professionally,” said Baron, who lives in Oakland with her husband and 5-year-old twins. “When I joined PG&E, I was really interested in corporate social responsibility. I thought: ‘What could be a bigger responsibility than providing gas and electricity to one in 20 Americans?’”
First in family to attend college
Baron was the first in her family to attend college (her mother would eventually earn a bachelor’s degree as well). Her father’s profession as surfer and surfboard maker kept the family close to the sea.
“There were many, if not all, family vacations spent camped out on the beach or near the ocean,” she said. “That experience and my experience growing up connected me to the water and the environment. It made me passionate about those issues.”
It was this connection that led her to study social good. From early on, her connection to the world around her compelled her to seek out ways to give back, to be a part of something meaningful.
After college, she worked at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She enjoyed the work but was looking to do more. Her mentor suggested business school. Soon after she applied to and was accepted to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
During her time there, Baron came to a realization.
“I’ve always been idealistic about the world, but business school gave me a different perspective and a greater sense of how things work,” she explained. “One school of thought was that companies should only make decisions that would benefit shareholders, but I believed — and still believe — that you should change ‘shareholders’ to ‘stakeholders.’ Companies should make decisions that benefit stakeholders like customers, the environment and the community.”
She was drawn to PG&E after listening to a talk from Ophelia Basgal, PG&E’s then-vice president of community relations, about the role we all have with social responsibility.
That led to her first job with PG&E nine years ago. Today, in addition to managing PG&E’s employee volunteering program and the company’s charitable strategy, she also serves as the executive director of the PG&E Corporation Foundation.
Under her watch, employees donated in record numbers
Within her first 90 days on the job, she revamped the company’s charitable giving strategy to better align PG&E’s $28 million in annual donations to the community’s needs. Under her leadership, the company last year set a new record for employee and retiree giving in its annual Campaign for the Community, raising $8.4 million for schools and nonprofits, along with nearly 97,000 volunteer hours.
“My connection to the environment steered me here and I’m continuing to focus on what value we as a company can bring to our communities and our responsibilities as good corporate citizens,” she said.
Baron is also involved in her community, serving on PG&E’s Women’s Network Advisory Board and volunteering her time as a board member for the Ready to Work Business Collaborative and as an advocate for the nonprofit Girls on the Run. She is devoted to health and wellness and enjoys running, swimming and yoga.
“Ananda represents all that’s great about the company,” said PG&E’s Emily White, who championed Baron’s nomination for the award. “She’s innovative, she’s committed to excellence and she works tirelessly to ensure that the PG&E Foundation is strategically aligned with our community partners to make real impact on the lives of Californians, particularly the underserved.”
And now she’s getting recognition for her accomplishments. She joins the CEOs of GoPro and Pinterest as members of the publication’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list and will be honored in March.
“PG&E is the kind of place you can always grow and evolve who you want to be as a person and as a leader,” Baron said.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.