Less Talk, More Walk: Race in the Workplace

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This is the second episode of the Voices of Energy’s limited series, Race in the Workplace. This series compiles the insights of several black energy professionals from our conversations with them during the Summer of 2020. This episode, "Less Talk, More Walk", looks at the question: How can companies implement more effective D&I initiatives that tackle racial injustices and promote an inclusive workplace that is authentic and sustainable?

Collecting data is critical. (01:34)

First on this topic is Rodney Williams, lead project manager at National Grid. Rodney gives advice on how companies can create action-oriented and effective DEI initiatives. He starts off by saying companies need to recognize where they are and get quantitative data to understand the makeup of their organizations. Then, managers can dive deeper by getting qualitative data around how employees feel at work and how the company culture affects them. Rodney states that once you have data, action can be taken. He emphasizes the importance of using existing resources and people to create change rather than outsourcing to a consulting group. This makes your initiatives around diversity more personal, and therefore, more effective. Furthermore, Rodney suggests that managers can be given diversity and inclusion targets that influence their day to day operations and make diversity a part of the company's DNA.

You need to know the culture you have before getting the culture you want. (04:01)

Amy passes it off to Paula Glover, former President of the American Association of Blacks in Energy and now President of the Alliance to Save Energy. Similar to Rodney, Paula underlines the importance of understanding the culture your company has in place now, before attempting to change anything. She adds that every company has a distinct personality and unique processes, growth opportunities, and more. For managers, it is important to look at these aspects of the organization to try to answer the question... "If our company isn't diverse right now, why is that?" Paula advises that, in order to diagnose the problems in an organization, leaders must be willing to do a whole lot of listening, and remaining open-minded.

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Look at minority groups separately. (06:20)

Amy then transitions to talk about how DEI programs can fall short of their goals. On this topic is Gaurdie Banister Jr., former CEO of Aera Energy and member of the DOW Board of Directors. Gaurdie says that when it comes to black lives mattering in business, it is critical for companies to differentiate what their black pipeline looks like against other ethnicities rather than just clumping all minorities together. He asserts that if companies never know what their metrics are specifically for the black people in their organization, progress will never be achieved for black employees.

Set yourself up for results. (07:58)

Final words in this episode come from Telisa Toliver, co-author of "The Energy Within Us" and General Manager of Renewable Power at Chevron Pipeline and Power. She summarizes the challenges of implementing systemic change in such a vast industry as energy. She notes that companies are seeing low ROI's on their investment in DEI programs, and aren't doing anything about it. This is why managers must implement these programs with an intentional and structured approach that will achieve results.

Reflection (09:25)

Katie Mehnert, Founder and CEO of Ally Energy, offers three questions for reflection after this episode:

  1. How can your company begin to integrate DNI goals into day to day operations
  2. Evaluate your company policies. Look critically at what practices may be discriminatory. How could these practices be amended?
  3. What are some different data collection methods that could help you better understand your organization’s current culture of diversity?

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