Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a continuous journey.
Acknowledging and promoting diverse individuals is incredibly important. Yet, many organizations view Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a nice-to-have instead of seeing it as a mission critical aspect of longterm success.
Regardless of where your organization stands today, incorporating DEI in all aspects of the business is becoming an expectation in the utility and power industries. That's why we sat down with industry leaders for an open discussion on what's working, what's not working, and what to expect in the upcoming years.
How have you seen evidence that gender equality improves utility business performance reflected in utilities?
"Every utility, especially in retail, the first line of defense is your call center. It is important to see those teams as the face of the business. They are the ones who interact with the customer on a regular basis. Organizations should go out and employ people they trust will fill that responsibility proudly. I mean, when you hire women who are proud of working and proud of what they do, it comes through when they are interacting with customers. For example, when you have someone who can appreciate the ability to have a job will address customer service issues better than someone who might be entitled. Most of the time, historically marginalized team members have a different appreciation for what they do and it shines through when communicating with customers," says Lindsey Margiotta from True Power, a retail electricity provider for deregulated areas throughout Texas.
"The difference between a platinum level company and an ordinary company is they manage the pathways of talent. If you hire someone, you have to make sure you are being true to what you promised around promotions, work-life balance, and other benefits. In a worker’s market, there is added value to bring new perspectives to the table and if we don’t grab the opportunity when people are willing to take a risk, everyone will miss the boat. Also, if we aren’t willing to embrace diversity, we aren’t doing our job as a board or organization. Diversity can be tied back to financial markets and the bottom line. Once you have to start filing reports and being regulated, you are forced to look at the numbers, and consider what you are doing to stay one step ahead of the next organization," says Laurie Dowling from National Utilities Diversity Council, an organization devoted to researching, educating, and developing best practices around DEI initiatives.
How is diversity and intersectionality shaping the utility industry?
"When you look at utilities, a lot of people have been at their organization for a long time. Now, millennials are coming into the workforce and are pushing the needle because they won’t take no as an answer. That’s the key to change in the industry today. There’s always been constant progression but many things have changed during the last five decades. Historically, you would refer people who look like you to the open roles at your organization. Now, it’s important to bring new faces from diverse backgrounds. I'm proud to work for an organization that took it upon themselves to push diversity and inclusion, especially during this unprecedented era," says Carlos Pullum from VertexOne, a meter-to-cash solution software provider.
"With the great resignation, there are a lot of people leaving the workforce and that results in a lack of knowledge transfer. In fact, there’s a change in the industry that is on the shoulders of the next generation. Robust internship program as pipeline to transfer generational knowledge, plus alumni networks to bridge any resource gaps all show traditionally marginalized groups that there are lots of ways to build community on each side of their career," says Lisa Stone from DC Water, a utility providing drinking water, sewage collection and sewage treatment for the District of Columbia.
What advice would you give someone who is in your shoes?
“Getting the best and the brightest versus attracting minority groups shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. And, throwing money at something doesn’t always help, there needs to be the messaging and individuals behind it. Organizations need to have uncomfortable conversations and go out and take action. Try to find commonality with individuals around you, and find a common spark to move something forward. Some people can have motivation and never move. That's why there needs to be a consistent level of change in spite of other people not seeing value in it”, says Ty Washington from LAPWD, a utility providing quality water and power to the City of Los Angeles.
"When I first got started, I knew the value I could bring and I pushed forward. I tried not to hold [stress] in and reminded myself that sometimes things are misunderstood, but don’t be afraid to talk about it. If you do the work and do the research, put together a plan, and voice those examples, you have a better chance of thriving in all positions. Always believe in yourself and remember that failure should not be looked at as bad, but as an opportunity, says Elizabeth Reed from VertexOne, a meter-to-cash solution software provider.
Take another step forward.
There's no true finish line to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In order to keep moving forward, organizations should enlist feedback from all employees and take advice from DEI experts in developing their next initiatives.
Here are a few resources:
Only by giving all backgrounds a seat at the table can we expect to make significant, sustainable advances toward becoming an inclusive organization. See how VertexOne is making an impact on our VertexOne for All page.
Join the conversation by following our hashtags #DiversifyUtilities and #OurImpact