LGBTQ2S+ employees in the energy sector need and deserve the power of allies.
Energy companies are becoming more inclusive, but more needs to be done to support LGBTQ2S+ employees.
Supportive networks and visible allies are needed on all rungs of the corporate ladder, especially among leadership.
Remote companies can help break down the kinds of barriers faced by employees at legacy firms.
Climate change is the biggest threat we face. Slashing emissions and transitioning to a clean economy requires everyone’s help. Solving this global problem means energy companies need to attract world-class talent.
Any company that wants to attract the best talent needs to practice diversity and enshrine it as a core company value. Diversity also boosts the bottom line—a study of 657 publicly-traded U.S. companies found “strong evidence that LGBTQ2S+ friendly corporate policies enhance firm performance.”
Unfortunately, the energy sector’s problematic reputation on LGBTQ2S+ issues prevents firms from attracting the diverse talent they need. According to PwC, over 80 percent of millennials say an employer’s policies and reputation regarding diversity and equality play an important role in choosing where they work.
LGBTQ2S+ employees need vocal and visible allies on all rungs of the corporate ladder. The road to accomplishing this varies from industry to industry, as certain sectors need to do more to show support for diversity.
Being LGBTQ2S+ in the energy space
Energy companies are missing out on LGBTQ2S+ talent because the industry is seen as unwelcoming. When asked which industry they would not wish to work in based solely on its image as an LGBTQ2S+ employer, LGBTQ2S+ employees listed ‘energy and utilities’ as one of the least desirable, according to PwC.
Specifically, 23.8 percent of respondents said the energy sector was the most undesirable industry to work in, second only to the defense industry.
Similarly, a survey by Pride in Energy—an LBGTQ2S+ forum created by Energy UK—found that 35 percent of respondents witnessed or experienced discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the past five years.
At the same time, there appears to be some discrepancy between the energy industry’s image and actions. While more certainly needs to be done to support LGBTQ2S+ workers in the sector, many major firms rank highly on diversity.
Energy companies are missing out on LGBTQ2S+ talent because the industry is seen as unwelcoming.
The Corporate Equality Index, published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), gave oil majors like Shell, BP, and Enbridge perfect diversity scores, as did utilities Alliant Energy and Xcel Energy. First Energy, ConEdison, and ExxonMObil also achieved high marks.
In another encouraging development, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made the unanimous decision to include certified LGBTQ2S+ businesses in their commitment to contractor diversity.
The CPUC has mandated that 1.5 percent of contracts be awarded to LGBTQ2S+-led firms. Californian utilities spent $43.5 billion in 2020 alone. That works out to over $600 million for LGBTQ2S+ companies.
These are encouraging signs that energy players are working to improve their corporate cultures and become allies.
The need for vocal and visible allies at all levels
Becoming an ally is an ongoing process that demands empathy and patience. Creating a welcoming corporate culture means engaging all stakeholders, especially leadership. CEOs in particular have a duty to be vocal allies, as 97 percent of LGBTQ2S+ employees consider CEO visibility on this issue important, according to PwC.
This goes beyond implicit support to active engagement, as silence is often negatively construed. As Todd Sears, founder and principal at Out Leadership explains:
“All too often, CEOs and senior leaders who want to be allies are afraid of saying the wrong thing, using the wrong term or the wrong acronym. Unfortunately […] the ‘assumption of negative intent’ is very strong in the [LGBTQ2S+] community. Therefore, it’s vitally important that allies also ‘come out’ and continue to do so in meaningful and visible ways.”
Another important element is empowering employees to create LGBTQ2S+ resources and network groups. These groups can be nationwide, like the Atlantic Council’s Out in Energy community, or company specific.
Creating these kinds of communities goes hand-in-hand with supporting self-identification in the workplace, both as a way to break down barriers and to track inclusion. For example, Mark Mclan, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays explains that:
“We’re introducing [LGBTQ2S+] self-identification into our HR system. The benefits include enabling us to track who is being recruited, how they progress, and their levels of reward and satisfaction, and then compare this against [non-LGBTQ2S+] peers. We can use this data to help identify and tackle barriers to fairness and equality.”
Tracking employee wellness and progress has become even more important since the COVID-19 pandemic upended how we work. The pandemic also raises new questions about how we build and nourish inclusive, remote offices.
What does inclusivity look like in a remote company?
We use ‘workplace’ and ‘company’ interchangeably, but the pandemic has weakened that connection. Remote-first, digital companies can leverage their flexible nature to help empower LGBTQ2S+ employees.
As Director of People and Culture at EnPowered, we think of workplace safety in broader terms. Ensuring employees have a sense of psychological as well as physical safety is key.
The vast majority of our employees have only been with us since we went remote-first—we’ve built an inclusive culture in this context from the beginning.
Being remote allows everyone to work from where they are most comfortable. This means less pressure to adhere to an existing ‘office culture.’ We all interact digitally, and being one step removed reduces emphasis on perceived differentiators.
We strive to maintain as egalitarian an environment as possible. For example, we use skill assessments for coders, and there is no indication of gender or ethnicity in the information we use to select our candidates.
While the energy industry suffers from a bad reputation when it comes to LGBTQ2S+ issues, tech is viewed as far more inclusive. As a tech company working in the energy sector, EnPowered has the opportunity to bridge this difference and act as a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ rights and diversity in general.
Want to join our inclusive culture and team at EnPowered? You can check out our openings here.