Building an equitable energy workforce: A better balance

UL's Katrina Jackson welcomes attendees to the Lunch for Better Balance at POWERGEN
UL's Katrina Jackson welcomes attendees to the Lunch for Better Balance at POWERGEN

A lunch held Wednesday at POWERGEN International highlighted the importance of “a better balance” in the energy industry workforce, with a focus on getting more women in the workforce but also more diversity and inclusion overall.

The Lunch for a Better Balance, sponsored by UL, featured three speakers who all received Excellence in Character Awards (formerly, Woman of the Year Award). These awards are given to members of the power generation industry who have stepped up and taken the lead on an initiative, project, or other endeavor that is meaningful to them. They are:

  • Linette Casey with Siemens Energy
  • Jennifer Fernandez with Southern California Edison
  • Andrea W. Lucan with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld

Two additional women received this award but were unable to attend the luncheon:

  • Sue Kelly with the American Public Power Association
  • Anne Robertson-Tait with GeothermEx (a Schlumberger company)

In presenting the awards, UL highlighted the importance of the word “balance,” with the industry needing balance for change and balance for equity.

Andrea Lucan, Jennifer Fernandez and Linette Casey (front, from left to right) seated in front of UL staff who supported the Lunch for Better Balance at POWERGEN.

The three award winners in attendance then had a panel discussion on a variety of subjects, moderated by Clarion Energy Content Director Jenn Runyon.

Some highlights of the discussion were points made about diversity, integrity and mentorship.

Although many companies today have specific focuses on diversity and inclusion, more work is needed in this area. Diversity groups cannot just be divided into such categories as women or parents or other similar qualifiers, but instead the focus needs to be on diversity of thought within teams. One panelist mentioned that they have seen qualifications to bid on tenders require the bidding company provide diversity data.

The subject of mentorship, a hot idea five years ago, was discussed and Lucan suggested we should focus on sponsorship rather than mentorship. A sponsor brings another person along on a journey, rather than coaching them from the sidelines. As Casey highlighted, “Were not in competition, we’re in collaboration.” Or, we should be.

In the end, as UL highlighted, a diverse workforce brings numerous benefits to a company – not all of them quantifiable. So it is in everyone’s best interest to sharpen the focus on this important topic. As Casey said, “we’re all in this little microcosm of energy together.”

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Elizabeth Ingram is senior editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines and conference committee chair for HydroVision International. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the magazine publishing industry, with more than nine of those spent in hydro.

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