Building a greener future is one of the world’s most pressing challenges. But we can only solve it by ensuring all communities and demographics are engaged and are given an opportunity to participate.
Policy, investment and technology are all crucial in accelerating progress towards limiting global warming and advancing the energy transition. But a critical piece of the puzzle is often an afterthought and sometimes neglected entirely, and that is the workforce. We know that the energy sector needs to recruit aggressively in the next decade to enable its workforce to keep pace with the energy transition.
But this is much more than a numbers game. To truly foster innovation and equity, recruitment needs to include goals to improve diversity within the energy industry. Employees with different backgrounds and lived experiences, bring their own unique strengths to help teams to tackle problems and uncover new ideas, and create the right environment for innovation to thrive. Numerous studies and innovation cohorts have demonstrated this finding time and time again.
On International Women’s Day, DNV published a blog calling for collaboration to accelerate gender and racial equality to ensure true, lasting change within the energy industry. In that blog we outlined that progress is happening, but that there’s still more to do.
So, what can companies in the energy sector do to increase diversity within their workforce? At DNV’s recent Global Wind Conference, Sheri Hickok, CEO, Onshore wind Asia Pacific & China for GE, spoke about the actions that GE is taking to improve diversity within its workforce. According to Sheri, the first step for any company with a diversity disparity is to admit they have a problem. The second is to put in place strong goals to address it. For GE this included a goal of attracting an even split of men and women into its engineering programme, something which the company has now achieved. GE also set a goal for 30% of new hires to be female – from a starting point of less than 15% the company is now at 25% and making good progress towards this target. As Sheri herself says: “If you set goals and you’re committed to them, the diversity is out there, but you have to commit and hold yourself accountable.”
For GE the goals and targets are working, but many companies still struggle to implement changes, even facing pushback from people uneasy about the prospect of metrics. But it’s important that we fight misinformation with statistics and make people understand that by setting diversity targets you’re not comprising on quality. The talent already exists, but unconscious bias is woven through our society and it’s only by putting in place initiatives and goals to improve representation that we can begin dismantling centuries of biased thinking.
We know that companies with more diversity perform better financially. McKinsey’s ‘Diversity Matters’ report found that: “Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.”
While putting in place goals is an essential step, we need to acknowledge that the problem starts much earlier. As well as goals that help us to reach diversity targets, we also need encouragement, starting at an early age. Speaking at our Global Wind Conference, wind energy pioneer Andrew Garrad explained that, “what we continually fail to do in engineering is get hold of female talent right at the beginning. We must encourage them at a much earlier stage by showing them role models from the industry”.
And it isn’t just gender we need to consider when tackling a lack of diversity in the industry. To truly make a difference companies need to understand the lived experience of their workforce and address the different intersectional challenges that they face. The barriers encountered by a White woman will not be the same as those faced by her Black counterpart, those barriers will further increase if that woman has a disability.
When considering diversity and inclusion, we also need to remember equity. There’s a growing divide in the access and affordability of energy, as well sharing the benefits of the energy transition equitably, both on an international and local level. Wealthier economies are pushing the green agenda and putting pressure on emerging economies, while failing to acknowledge the part that fossil fuels have played in their own economic development. An equitable energy transition will only happen if our most vulnerable communities are included. On a local level, low income and underserved communities are the ones facing the burden of rising energy costs and impact of climate change, but often have the least access to clean energy technologies or energy efficiency measures.
Building a greener future is one of the world’s most pressing challenges. As an industry, we’re at the forefront of tackling climate change, but we can only solve it by ensuring all communities and demographics are engaged and are given an opportunity to participate.
You can watch the panel discussion from our Global Wind Conference here.