Strengthening Clean Energy with a Diverse Workforce

Oct 11, 2018 9:35 AM ET

Strengthening Clean Energy with a Diverse Workforce

by Kristen Graf, Executive Director, WRISE (Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy)

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible grid, is more than adequate to supply 80 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050. Children who are currently in elementary school will be in their 40s by 2050, bringing those projected numbers to reality as they become members of the U.S. workforce. Now is the time to take a close look at the pipeline of potential clean energy workers ensuring that we are bringing the best minds and the most diverse perspectives to the table – both today and in 2050.

The Need for a Diverse Workforce
Prioritizing diversity both in terms of race and gender are critically important components for building a successful company. Research from McKinsey and Company makes it increasingly clear that companies with a more diverse workforce also perform better financially.

Some key takeaways from their Diversity Matters report:

• Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

• Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 

Similar findings are shown again and again as more reports and studies dive in on the benefits of a diverse workforce. Catalyst, Deloitte, The Boston Consulting Group, Credit Suisse, a meta-analysis by the Academy of Management by the Academy of Management of 140 studies have all found similar results and the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT has found better group decision-making correlates significantly to three factors: how well the members of the group read each others nonverbal cues, how regularly the conversation shifts among the members of the group (as opposed to being dominated by one person), and how many women are in the group.

Current State of Play for Energy Companies and Trends
According to the 2017 U.S Energy Employment report published by the Department of Energy, energy-related sectors are relatively less diverse compared to the overall national workforce. Women remain a smaller portion of the workforce in the energy sector, ranging from 22 to 34 percent, compared to the overall economy, where women make up 47 percent of the workforce. While the energy industry at large remains slightly behind other industries in regards to diversity both in terms of executive leadership and overall workforce, the trends in recent years are encouraging but indicative of work still needed.

As the global renewable energy workforce grows to 24 million in 2030, diversity and inclusion will play a central role in the success of this industry. It is the mission of Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) to achieve a strong diversified workforce and support a robust renewable energy economy.

The organization offers programs to support companies and individuals looking to:

• Recruit more women to work in renewable energy

• Retain and advance the great women currently working in the field

• Leverage the voices and experience of the women and men in our network to advance women and renewable energy

Diversity and Inclusion Needs to Start with our Current Workforce
There’s no single solution to solving energy’s diversity problems, but an important first step is for companies to track internal data and identify areas for improvement. Different companies will have different needs and different bottlenecks, but once a company sets a priority, there are several concrete steps available for building a culture of equity and inclusion and working towards a strong diversified renewable energy workforce.

Read Kristen's complete article including WRISE's has a list of 10 areas of recommended focus including - recruitment, salary transparency, and promotion opportunties. All here -