Ensuring true workplace diversity in the energy industry: It takes a village

Workplace diversity is vital to ensure organisations have the depth and breadth of knowledge to truly serve customers and employees. But when it comes to the fairly recent awareness of and focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry, “we’re already late,” said Robert Matthews, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Exelon Corps.

When asked why this is such an important topic to cover at this time, Mel Montes, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging business lead for Clarion Events, pointed out: “It’s important now because of where the world is now.”

What’s more, companies may be hiring a D&I champion and expecting them to pave the way to inclusion. However, to ensure the true diversity of background, experience, thought and ability a company needs, the entire organisation must commit to fostering the sense of belonging at all levels.

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These are just two important points driven home by speakers in the Powered by Diversity Luncheon at DISTRIBUTECH International and POWERGEN International. This programme, sponsored by S&C, featured a dynamic discussion of the situation, best practices, and the need to prioritise DE&I throughout the energy industry.

As Scott Trapp, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Oncor Electric Delivery Company, succinctly put it, “We all really and truly want to belong.” Diversity helps build an organisation that has a variety of viewpoints best-suited to create innovative solutions and meet customers’ needs.

And beyond that, ensuring that sense of belonging is vital to current and future staffing needs across the industry. “Employee expectations of employers are changing,” pointed out Felicia Kohlenberger, chief human resources officer for S&C Electric Company. Employees aren’t necessarily looking at every job as a lifelong career, and they won’t hesitate to look elsewhere if they don’t feel they belong.

At the same time, employers are discovering that a diverse talent pool doesn’t necessarily lead to a hire, which Pamela Culpepper, co-founder of Have Her Back LLC referred to as “minding the gap.” Trapp echoed this sentiment in the practice companies may have of showing one “face” of the company during hiring fairs and to prospective employees, when in reality the company looks very different. He said organisations much “make sure you give a true representation of the company you are.”

Looking forward to future work on this important focus, S&C spoke of next year’s luncheon and announced they will be presenting a new Powered by Diversity award at DISTRIBUTECH International in 2023.

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