Tom: Hi, everyone. Welcome back. Welcome to our second Energy Innovators Roundtable event on the 2021 season. I'm Tom Timmins and I lead the Energy Sector Industry group here at Gowling WLG Canada. Today we are going to continue a conversation which we started last year regarding the challenge and the opportunity of equity, diversity and inclusion in the power and energy sectors and I am delighted to welcome back my partner, Neena Gupta, who moderated our session last year and will once again be coming back to moderate this year. Before I introduce Neena, a couple of housekeeping items. Our Energy Innovator Roundtables occur every fall during the months of September, October and November. They are designed to take a look at specific challenges facing our energy industries in Canada and to provide a forum where energy system leaders can exchange ideas, gain new insights and make new personal connections all under Chatham House Rules. For now, of course, we are online but I would encourage you to participate, to lean in, to ask questions, to put forward an idea, to challenge our speakers and to question assumptions, particularly today as we are discussing one of the most important issues of our time. Today's discussion is being recorded and it will be available on our website, for free, shortly after we're done here today. Last year's excellent discussion on the same topic is also available on our website. Finally, our next Energy Innovators Roundtable is taking place on Thursday, November 18 at 2:00pm, again. In our November discussion we will be taking a look at the challenges and the opportunities arising from COP26, and the discussions going on at Glasgow for the Canadian Power and Energy Sectors, with an in depth discussion led by Adam Chamberlain and Jennifer King. Now to the topic of the day. My partner, Neena Gupta, is a partner in Gowling WLGs Waterloo and Toronto offices. Neena practices and specializes in employment and human rights matters. She has advised on a broad range of matters over the course of her career on all aspects of employment law, including employment offers and contracts and policies, COVID-19 challenges which I know have kept her and her team quite busy over the last couple of years, of course, compensation plans, the Canadian Human Rights Act, access ability for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, employment standards, etcetera. Neena herself has worked incredibly hard to help our firm with equity, diversity and inclusion matters and without further ado I'm going to pass the virtual microphone over to you, Neena.
Neena: Thank you, Tom, and thank you for inviting all of us to this Energy Innovators forum. I have never done one of these in person and, Tom, I'm hoping at least in 2022 I'll get to meet some of the people in person.
Tom: That's right.
Neena: We have a phenomenal group of energy innovators on our panel today and I know that some of their name are well known to you. I thought instead of giving a boring introduction I would give you a sense of who they really are. I'm going to start with Lisa Oelke. She's Director of Partnerships, StepUp Energy Management. Lisa recently became an empty nester and then decided to live that bucolic life in a log home on Buckhorn area and all of sudden her home is filled with three chickens that have become ten chickens, senior pets, a dog and cat, so she's just got a busy nest, little bit differently. Maybe not so many two legged people and more animals.
Vinay Mehta, who I've never met before, General Counsel, Alectra Utilities is my kind of guy. He loves making food, mostly trying food. I am motivated by food. I am sure there's some kind of totally politically correct, respectful relationship that can be devised over his love of cooking and my love of eating. He apparently has an amazing porcini mushroom risotto recipe and wants to try out a Persian dish called Fesenjan. I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing that right, Vinay, which is walnut and pomegranate chicken. I think we're all invited to Vinay's home after COVID for dinner.
Neena: Okay. Susannah Robinson. Susannah and I shared a fun email. Now, like many women of our vintage, we had a hard time balancing or figuring out what the right thing to do between child bearing and working, Susannah actually went back to work the week after Charlotte was born, 23 years ago, and Charlotte came along and essentially, I'm not sure that her white male colleagues knew exactly what to do with a breast feeding woman, or where to look, but I am happy to report that Susannah and Charlotte are doing well. I have similar experiences in my life and you know what? It's good to do stuff like that and prove that you can do it. It takes a bit of a creativity.
Laura McGee, who's Founder and CEO of Diversio. I know I have looked towards Diversio's work to get accurate statistics and information regarding what's happening and what's work in D&I in the energy sector. I don't know, however, that I'll every keep up with Laura because she is a marathon rollerblader and I am terrified of rollerblading. So maybe what we'll do is we'll just meet at Vinay's for dinner and you can rollerblade there.
Our last, but not least, speaker is Indy Butany-DeSouza who's President and CEO of Elexicon Energy. She's someone that we all should respect. Not only is she a phenomenal energy innovator but she has a brown belt in Karate and is well on her way to becoming a black belt. So a fun group of smart innovative D&I champions today, Tom, and I'm really excited about being invited on this panel.
I'm going to put all of you to work right away. I'm very passionate about D&I, and I think we'll have to roll up our sleeves and work, and I'm going to start with what seems like a very simple question but can be deceptive. Maybe I'll start with our brown belt in Karate, Indy. We talk a lot about ED&I, equity, diversity and inclusion, but what does it mean to have D&I in your organization? What does success look like for your organization? What do we want to be when we grow up in ED&I? I'm going to let you start with that.
Indy: Thanks so much, Neena, and thanks so much to Gowling for including me on this panel with so many friendly faces who I've known for many years and many new friends as well who I admire. It's such an interesting question and I get to offer that I'm framing what the goals of my organization are around ED&I. I'm in week 5, day 4. So not that I will disavow the statements that I make today but certainly it's been a very quick study into where we're at on our ED&I journey. I suspect the same is true of many of my peers that we keep having reflect back on how we got to where we're at at any particular point in time, on our ED&I journey, and whether where we're going continues to make sense with overall goals in mind. So what I'll say is that for Elexicon Energy, as we pause today on October 21, we're in a fortunate position that we have a leadership team, or an executive team, that is already itself breaking barriers. So my executive team is 87% women. It's a pretty big statistic in the energy sector which means out of 8 people, 7 are women. Now I could pause there and say, "Now is the right compliment either?" because it seems like a full swing in the other direction and we know that being diverse doesn't mean that you go to the other extreme. It means that ultimately you get to that right balance. That being said, I will say for the hear and now where we sit in 2021, it is absolutely an incredible starting point and something that we should be very proud of because a few years ago no one would have batted an eyelash if 7 out of 8 were men and often it still is the case. Certainly a step in the right direction. I'm also the first South Asian female CEO in the energy sector in Ontario. So there are different steps that we've taken, at least at the executive level, to start putting our foot very squarely in making changes from an ED&I perspective. That being said, when you asked me what success looks like, it's really about going kind of 100 steps further and imbedding ED&I in our culture, in our purpose and in our brand. I haven't spoken about our board of directors. There is work to do, from a diversity stand point at the board level, and as I look into our organization there is certainly ethnic diversity but still a lot of work to be done, particularly at the further leadership levels. So in terms of goals and responsibilities we're setting pretty hard hitting targets for ourselves and we want to make them transparent to our shareholder communities. If you share it publicly, public accountability has a way of forcing you into making your goals happen, so that is certainly part of our journey in terms of being able to walk the talk that we're putting out. Then when we consider ED&I, and as I consider that now in 2021 having done work at my predecessor organizations on this same topic, obviously and this might be a segue into further conversation that we're going to have this afternoon, but having a strong and specific view on Indigenous relations and a vision and strategy to approach Indigenous relations as part of the broader ED&I, or ESG, I mean you can pick a 3 letter acronym, as part of that is fundamentally necessary when you consider all that's happened in our world over this last year.
Neena: That's a challenge in perspective and I do agree. Public accountability is a way of really encouraging us to try to focus on those goals. Vinay, I would love to hear from you, to chime in on what does success look like? What are the goals of ED&I?
Vinay: Let me begin by echoing Indy's sentiments and thanking you, Tom, Gowling, for inviting me to attend and for hosting this important subject. My glass is more than half full on this topic. I think there's great progress on ED&I. We have a long way to go but I remember my early days of articling and my last name being called out in court because the motions judge didn't know how to pronounce it and made a comment or two. Odd experiences that happened during your professional career but there's progress and I think again my glass is more than half full and I think having conversations like this is critical. Thanks to Gowling for facilitating. So like Indy, like other LBCs and other organizations in the energy sector, Alectra's focused on making the workplace a real reflection of the communities we serve. Alectra has a million customers. Second largest municipally owned utility in North America. What's important for us is looking inward and ensuring that we have deep conversations about equity and inclusion and having honest conversations. That's a journey. We're institutional entities and so having these conversations evolve is important. Having our employees be a part of this, a critical part of building this inclusive culture that supports an equitable, diverse workplace, is really important. So there's lots of elements to this but it's really about making sure that we've engaged our workforce in a real meaningful way. Which is ultimately going to help us, in terms of ultimate success, help lead to better business results. Better serving our communities and making sure we have that engaged workplace, and more specifically with respect to what does success look like, I think first of all, from a leadership level, our board of directors, our CEO, our executive committee and our senior leadership team are committed to ED&I. Leadership though needs to foster a workplace that's equitable and inclusive. Leaders don't have to be the topical experts on ED&I. It's a complicated topic. There's elements of which that are very esoteric, and that's not necessarily the expectation, but they've got to be able to show up and lead by action and visibly demonstrate their commitment to ED&I. Additional success is inclusion and that's the key to leveraging the benefits of diversity. Without an inclusive environment truly the power of diversity remains untapped. Part of that success also means understanding your organization and understanding the make up of your organization and employee's lived experience within your organization. Truly understanding what's happening and understanding their sentiment is critical. Whether that's through employee surveys, or other engagement type surveys, you've got to be able to get a sense of what they're going through. That in and of itself, understanding your organization, is a success in and of itself. I think ultimately by gaining feedback from employees, assessing organizational data to uncover key areas, where we may lack inclusiveness, where we are able to build out action steps for improving our level of inclusiveness throughout all areas of the organization and the employee life cycle. Understanding and measuring all of these employee sentiments is really an important part of the ED&I process and finding out those answers is, in my view, an important success.
Neena: Thank you, Vinay. That's a big homework list. I've been writing it down about all the things that we need to do. Indy mentioned this a little bit but I might turn the question over to Susannah. We've been in the middle of a pandemic and in the middle of pandemic there were still two major things that I thought really were pivot points for ED&I. The first, of course was a tragic murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement, and the discovery, and I think we're up to over 18,000 unmarked graves, in the Canadian Residential School system which just has a haunting impact. All of us are either children or parents and just the idea of having so many children die so far away from home and being in unmarked graves. How do you feel that that has impacted the work? Maybe I'll get Susannah here for her perspective.
Susannah: Sure. Thanks for that and in the middle of COVID I think it's highlighted that we're not all in this together. I know people like to say that but those few events certainly crystalized and augmented the need to address D&I. I'd like to just touch on the Indigenous piece because we, through our regulatory process, engage in some 30 to 35 Indigenous groups. So for EPCOR it's an authentic journey we thought we could embark on and I think it's important when you're thinking about this is being authentic and it's so important. It's interesting. One of our observations throughout this is that it provided a platform for many of our Indigenous employees who previously we didn't realize they were Indigenous. They hadn't self-identified as Indigenous but throughout this journey these events led them to share their stories and develop really sound business cases for Indigenous partnerships. As you can imagine the stories are pretty compelling. In many ways it led to our decision then to seek are PAR certification, which is the Progressive Aboriginal Relations, as the establishment of an Indigenous Relations Steering committee and we're working on a policy which will drive equitable workplaces and our procurement policies. But just a couple of small examples of some changes that we've made in our frontline. We have a monitoring program which provides Indigenous Nations and communities with access to sites where excavations related to our projects are taking place. These positions are compensated, like any other consultant that we would have on site and they work alongside with our project managers. So we've embarked on quite a bit of training in terms of Indigenous rights and cultural training, just to name a few, with our project managers. Some other activities, our harvesting of traditional medical plants in our solar farm, and formalizing procedures and processes related to archeological work. As an example, if there were human remains discovery, our monitors would be there to introduce items such as perhaps the laying of tobacco into the formal processes and procedures that we would normally do through that sort of activity. So just a couple of examples of how we're trying to incorporate those items into our projects.
Neena: Thank you, Susannah. Indy, I know you mentioned Indigenous matters as you made your opening remarks. I'm wondering if you have a follow up to Susannah's commentary?
Indy: Sure, Neena, thank you so much. In large part I would start by echoing Susannah's first comment that the events that you identified were certainly a catalyst. They were eye opening events, not just for the world in general, but certainly for the business world. When I consider where Elexicon Energy is in its rather early journey, generally speaking previously, we wouldn't have commented and perhaps this is true of other organizations of which I've worked, we wouldn't have commented on specific social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, like the Truth and Reconciliation, both Day and the recognition and reckoning, that we are at this point in Canada's history. But I think the events were so significant that it behooves us to recognize that ED&I, while massive already to begin with, has very specific near term areas of focus, perhaps, that need to be addressed just based on two specific and tragic events that you've identified, Neena, but of course those are just a tipping point relative to others that have happened, whether throughout the country or throughout the world. At Elexicon we've developed our ED&I vision and policy and I would share Vinay's sentiment that a lot of the work begins with starting inwardly focused with your employees and engaging them, understanding where they are at and their journey, and also educating them on what you need. It was brought to my attention, perhaps a week ago, that you can have a conversation with multiple intelligent people in a room, but unless you're speaking the same common language, you can entirely be working at cross purposes. So workplace training and workshops on ED&I to, for lack of a better term use the term level set, the understanding throughout the organization has been a key starting point in order to drive an Elexicon workplace that is diverse and respectful and inclusive. We are also at the point of reviewing existing policies through the ED&I lens but the other point, perhaps that's exciting for me having joined Elexicon very recently, is that on Indigenous relations specifically, Elexicon is about to build its first municipal transformer station. Which led us to consult with, now it might not be the over 30 that Susannah and her organization consult with, but it was the first time that we have undertaken consultation with Indigenous groups. So it was 10 different First Nations during the planning and design phases. What an incredible opportunity. It's an incredible opportunity, not only to ensure that when you say you're going to be inclusive, that actually shows up in the day to day work that you do as a distribution utility but it also means that it is now imparting in my team in our organization a level of sensitivity because they have firsthand knowledge and interaction with the communities that would otherwise be impacted. Is that like my time's up?
Neena: That's my son trying to see if I can bail him out but I'm not going to. He's 20 years old. He can bail himself out.
Vinay: It obviously forces, in a good way, and encourages sensitivity to the issues of other communities that previously, and truthfully, we would not have actively engaged with. But it now sets a bar and opens the door to broader discussions and consultation around potential economic development opportunities that are mutually beneficial, and it really puts us on a path that is well beyond just having the conversations amongst ourselves, but seeing how those translate to community and specific Indigenous interaction. Something we're very proud of.
Neena: That sounds like an amazing journey and I'm now going to invite, I think, Lisa and Laura McGee, quite frankly. Sometimes I struggle with to do some of the work that Vinay and Susannah and Indy have talked about. Where do we start? Maybe what I'll do is I'll start with Lisa and Laura because they are helping people start and continue this journey. So, Lisa, you're thoughts.
Lisa: Thank you, Neena, and thank you again to Gowling. StepUp Energy Management is really thrilled to be here and be part of this really important discussion. So StepUp is just in the final stages of launching a Canada wide survey to look at representation for diversity, equity and inclusion within the energy management sector, organizations and industry. Part of this is because StepUp was formed in 2019 specifically to look at the representation men, women, marginalized groups within the energy management sector as we all transition to our low carbon economy. What does that look like to improve the dialogue and the mandate for ED&I? So the study that we're taking on is going to be looking at different levels within organizations for what the hiring practices are, pay equity, pay transparency, leadership training and other really evidence based ED&I work that they'll be doing and we really believe in measurement and verification. Without having a benchmark now in the sector we don't know what progress looks like. How far we'll get. I know Indy was talking about the board and the structure of the organization now and there are different levels of the spectrum. So to understand and have those data points is going to be really, really important. So the report will be a public report and that will be shared to allow everybody to actually move with that information and see how we can make advancements, and again, improve on what we see right now across the sector. Specifically to energy management. We will be enlisting an independent third party to do the Canada wide survey for us and we're really excited to be undertaking in the fall of this year and into early 2022.
Neena: I can't wait to read your report. I'm very curious as to how your sector actually is doing. Laura, I'm wondering if you have some thoughts of how do we start? How do we get there?
Laura: Yes, such an interesting panel to be a part of and if everybody could be like Indy and Vinay, I think we wouldn't have these kind of problems. Very high level. So what my company does is we have a technology platform that helps organizations collect, analyze and the ultimately improve data on diversity, equity and inclusion. Probably no surprise here from me that at the end of the day, like any other business priority, it comes down to metrics. The kind of old adage, what gets measured gets done. We see time and again that is true and it's an adage for a reason. I think step one is of course gain alignment within the organization and understand why is ED&I a priority. Not only why is important but why is it material. So what is it material to our business? Why is it a top 3, 5 priority? I think the good news is, I would say, the events that you described earlier, Neena, around discovering Indigenous graves and of course Black Lives Matter, that did a lot of initial engagement work for us. I think, talk to almost anybody in Canada these days, and say, "Hey. We're starting a ED&I effort." I don't think you're going to get the same reactions you would have gotten 5 years ago which is, why does this matter? There's a clear case. We're seeing a ton more activity from investors and governments who are requiring progress and requiring disclosures. So hopefully that step one is easier. Then step two, again like any other target that you set, is trying to understand what are we trying to achieve. What are the 5 or 6 metrics? Typically you don't want to go, if there's 100 of them even though that can be tempting in this space, identifying. I kind of love, Indy, what you said around this was a tipping point but I think the smartest companies are getting ahead of the curves when it comes to collecting data and trying to do better for many different groups. So saying, "Look. Black Lives Matter." Of course it's important. Indigenous inclusion of course is important but we also want to think about people with disabilities. We want to think about the LGBTQ community. I think starting to collect data around a set of metrics to help you identify who are the groups that are feeling excluded, who needs to be leveled up and in what way are they feeling left out. Then ultimately again, and I don't want to be a broken record around kind of treating this like a business imperative, but it's identifying 2, 3, 4 maybe 5 really high impact interventions. So if you discover, for example, that there's a complete lack of indigenous representation in your business and that you're below benchmark and you really need to go out and recruit and hire from that community, what is the highest impact program or partnership that you can develop to solve for that problem. So once you know the problem it's figuring out what are the solutions and then, in my view, it's laser focus on executing those and then tracking the impact. I think through that process you start to set up really a business process. It becomes baked into your business, KPIs and report outs that ultimately I think we see with our clients when they stick to that. It feels intuitive. If you run a great company you're probably doing a lot of this already. That really tends to have results. I don't know if that was helpful.
Neena: I think that's a great place to start and I know that our own firm's D&I journey started in 2014 with a D&I survey which was not just demographic but all those important inclusion questions. I don't know that management was necessarily expecting the results that they got but they were smart to accept it. That is where we're at. That is just a starting point and we're going to start from here and then we're going to keep measuring and keep improving and it's a journey. I like to say that the journey of a 1,000 miles starts with the first step and I think benchmarking is that first step. I don't know where we are on that 1,000 mile journey but we've certainly have made many steps. So we've made progress. I do, however, think that this kind of panel has a risk and the risk is that we are inviting D&I champions to talk about D&I. So the people who attend these events tend to be people who are, maybe not experts, but are interested and supportive. So let's talk a little bit about the real barriers we face and maybe I'll start with Vinay. I know you're an optimistic kind of guy. The glass is more than half full but what are the barriers that you see to ED&I?
Vinay: I'm going to talk about three barriers but I think, contextually, when I left my firm I moved over to the banking sector for about 6 or 7 years and got back into the power sector, and I can tell you that the individuals I saw at the conferences when I first started practicing law, and then when I sort of left and seen them 7 years later was effectively the same folks. Right? Again, to my point on the institutional nature of some of those barriers, first and foremost it's a very male dominated industry, and notwithstanding the great success that Elexicon with Indy's executive team and, I think as she would agree, that that's obviously an anomaly in the sector as she's noted. I think that disparity in male and female representation in the energy sector is a big issue. It's just not within boards or senior executive positions. Overall women currently make up only about 22% of the Canadian energy sector. That's from Electricity Human Resources Canada. This is a significant barrier in terms of that disparity. So we continue to operate in that very heavily male dominated industry so there's a real need for a balancing act that has to occur at the table. Another barrier is, I think for the industry as a whole, utility sector generally is behind the ED&I curve. Again, I've said it a few times but again to reiterate, we all know it's an institutional entity and that often hampers the ability to get to progress. ED&I has to form, in my view, part of your human resource, your broader organizational strategy, and you need to ensure that it's embedded in your processes, your procedures and it's not some anomaly or often it being set aside separate from those processes, procedures and strategy because that becomes counterintuitive. I think the final barrier to raise is really not having a clear strategy. Indy and I have worked together in the past at Alectra and know the importance of having a clear strategy, and making sure that it is very clearly known within the organization, because creating that inclusive and sustainable culture in that environment requires having that clear strategy and having that defined strategy allows for you to have some true success and have a true foundation for ED&I. For organizations prioritizing and aligning your ED&I goals with your business strategy is obviously a real barrier or a real challenge for many. I think being able to align those two significant elements goes a long way to getting to success.
Neena: Alright. Susannah, I know that you've been working on ED&I for a very long time but what are the barriers that you see?
Susannah: Yes, so just another fact to Vinay's point, I know that the tone from the top obviously is important. We're fortunate to have a female Chair of the Board but I think less than 5%, overall, the Canadian corporations have a female chair. She's also very cognizant of diversity in other areas so we're fortunate that way. In terms of barriers, two that come to my mind are metrics and I agree with what gets measured and what gets done. So I'll comment on that and then obviously culture. I think Indy mentioned you can get the same people in the room but, especially on the D&I front, recognizing that some employees are at very different places. An engineering tech may not form part of their day the way that we're having these conversations and it's pretty easy to blow by employees if we don't really recognize that. They're absolutely critical on a cultural change journey which we're on. I think cultural change should play a prominent role on board agenda items as well. I'm on the TSSA and it's a separate item. It's not part of our HR committee. It's a board issue. So I think that's important. On metrics, when I looked at our scorecard I just counted up, we have 4 KPIs on governance, 5 on environment and 16 on the S. We're utilities so a lot of our safety metrics fall in the S so that takes up a lot of them but it's also obviously where the diverse workforce, the indigenous relations come in. So I just think we need to be very deliberate. We're at the beginning of this journey. If you ask where we are on the 1,000 footstep, I don't know what footstep, but I would say we're at the beginning of the journey. I think we need to be very deliberate in the metrics to make sure they're delivering what we expect of them and not be afraid to revisit them, just to make sure they're driving the right behaviour and things will change and we may have another, hopefully not, but an incident. I think we just need to be quite deliberate in those metrics and how we measure them and very cognizant. I was reading an article the other day, and it's not any organization on this call today, but an organization that had frontline workers. In the utility business we obviously have powerline technicians. They tend to be male dominated. We obviously want more females, and more diversity, but I also think in that sense we need to be mindful of setting targets which may result in a step backwards if we place candidates in those positions that lack qualification and are placed in a role that was a barrier to begin with. Just an interesting article that I read. So again, culture, KPIs being very deliberate on this journey.
Laura: Susannah, can I maybe pile onto that?
Laura: I think that's such an important point. I was going through our data set and looking specifically at energy sector companies and looking for what are the challenges reported by diverse employees as they move up the pipeline, no pun intended, but what is it that's preventing diverse talent, to your point, from advancing to the next role and a lot of the time it's adequate resourcing. So they don't have the kind of education support. They haven't been trained. One of the biggest problems is they don't have a sponsor or a mentor so they don't have a senior leader in the organization who's kind of texting them whenever they need to, on WhatsApp, and really forming that kind of mentor/mentee relationship. So I think that when we work with organizations step one is understand and engage with your employee. Get their feedback and I think narrative feedback can go such a long way in this space, especially when combined with hard numbers and metrics, but understanding what you're hearing from. Like, "Look. I'm not prepared for this role. I'm not prepared for this step up opportunity and here's what I think needs to be in place to make me feel confident and secure." I think when you create that strategy, that 5 step plan, 3 step plan, incorporating some of those programs can go a really long way to making sure that you're not taking that one step back.
Neena: Laura, you've kind of anticipated my next question which is we've talked a little bit about barriers but I would really like to focus a little bit on what has worked. I realize that this is not a one size fits all type of question but I think it's important for listeners to understand that sometimes you can actually have some priorities, have a strategy and get some success out of it and success builds success. Right? Maybe what I'll do is, Susannah, I know you've talked about some programs. Why don't you talk about maybe a key program which actually had some success and has engendered more success?
Susannah: Sure. A couple of small ones that I just wanted to mention before focusing on what I think is a key one that's worked for us and it's about baby steps of what you said. If you're in this industry you'll often start a meeting with a safety moment and we've changed our safety moments to be safety, diversity and inclusive moments. It's led to some really interesting conversations, actually, when we opened it up to diversity and inclusive moments. Often those conversations last longer than the safety moment. Little things, manholes or maintenance holes. Other items around gender, ensuring that we have a tool that when we post a job description, we actually have tool that analyzes it to ensure that we're not posting for biases and we even have a messaging platform so that we can speak to candidates that don't have access to computers for email. All those little things are very important to build on. But I think what has been a success in our organization, we have, like many do, a diversity council at EPCOR and we have what we call employer resource groups. We started these some years ago with 'Her Story' which was obviously talking about women in the workplace and they're groups that say, "Yes, you belong here and yes you have allies." We've extended those groups to working parents and caregivers, which is going to be very important as we try to ensure an equitable reintegration, and that those who choose to work from home have the same opportunities and most recently, time for Pride, which is obviously for anyone interested in an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. I think as of last count we had over 1,000 employees that have volunteered to participate in these groups and they sponsor everything from educational sessions to social sessions and it's certainly been very engaging for our employees.
Neena: I'm looking around and so maybe what I'll do is ask Lisa for a success story or a strategy that's worked.
Lisa: Thanks very much and great to hear what EPCORs doing, Susannah. I think that's really important. We all know about the great resignation that we learned. 40% of the global workforce, they're looking to leave their jobs. So people need to see themselves in their future roles. They need to know that the environment they work in is safe and that they're comfortable and included. Without that you're risking retention. So how are you going to keep the people that you have and maintain your business? We know diverse companies, they out perform the basis, they foster more innovation and creativity. But it's not always safe. Personally I've experienced this as a gay women in the career force up to 30 years ago, in a leadership role, you know that your family dynamic usually comes into the equation. So spouses are invited. As a parent it was naturally assumed that I had a husband. So you want to be brave and upfront but that was really uncomfortable during those times to have to have those really personal conversations without really having a framework to do it. It's really nice to hear, I love to hear safety chats that include ED&I, because there are marginalized groups that aren't as visible as the others that still have their own biases that might exist in the workforce. Again, retention is really important for small organizations to understand their representation, and then retaining people through a pay equity, through better hiring practices to remove racial biases, expand leadership training, other ED&I objectives and commitments so that people, millennials want to feel safe, they want to be in those environments. Marginalized groups, racialized groups, by 2044 they're going to be the majority, not the minority. It just makes sense to do the work. It feels right. It is right and the economy and the workforce are all going to benefit from it. It's exciting to be among this group and to hear progress and to be part of the discussions as well.
Neena: Vinay, your suggestion for a program that's worked. A success story. A brag story, if you will.
Vinay: Well, I won't talk about my risotto at this point but in terms of the success stories, I look at this both internally and externally. I think again internally, being able to start the conversation in ED&I. When Alectra was formed and you're going through this massive integration, when you're seeking all of those synergies of this new merger, those things do not become the priority. So having ED&I at the forefront now is really important for the organization and I think, again, it's all relative and everyone's learnings are relative, and I think us starting in the way we have is a success in and of itself and there's a journey and a long way to go. But, again, I think it's all relative. I think there's a variety of things. Alectra has an Alectra Cares Community Support program that supports local communities. We have recently partnered with McMaster University Degroote School of Business, Directors College, to sponsor a new scholarship called the Alectra Utilities ED&I Scholarship Fund. That's a 5 year commitment. We'll see a scholarship awarded to one candidate in the McMaster Charter of Directors program for the BIPOC community, and that program's going to be managed by McMaster, but that in and of itself is I think critical because board governance is critical, and having BIPOC communities at the table is obviously extremely important, and Alectra's very proud of that partnership. In terms of other arrangements, working with STEM and non-traditional roles. Alectra supports programs that encourage women in trades including the YWCA STEM Girls Club in Hamilton. Partnering with Conestoga College on the development of a pre-apprenticeship trades training course for women. Alectra partners with Conestoga College in the Powerline Pre-Trade program for Aboriginal students. We do work with WIRE, which is Women in Renewable Energy, and the Electricity Human Resources Canada. Alectra was the first organization to sign the leadership accord on diversity, equity and inclusion and then there's other areas of law where we have supported different organizations, including Black Lives Matter and other organizations, financially. That's a variety of both the internal/external successes to share.
Neena: That's very impressive. Indy, I know you're new. What was it? 5 weeks, 4 days and some minutes at Elexicon but wondering if you want to talk about something that works. Some of the success strategies that have been implemented.
Indy: I feel like, Neena, I might have to put into effect that brown belt status because you put me right after Vinay who just listed off a litany of things. I don't even think I know that many things about Elexicon. But I will say that similarly, and the organization is only 2 and a half years into its consolidated journey, so that perspective needs to be considered. But for 2 years in, to already started rolling this year, ED&I training for our teams despite the virtual environment. It wasn't a let's wait until we're back in the office, whenever that happens, it's too important a topic to not keep moving that ball done the field. Over the course of this past year, developed the training and over calendar 2021, that training has been rolled out to, and it's multiple modules not kind of a one and done, so multiple modules over the course of the year and ED&I program that we expect will, not expect, it's going to be part of our ongoing Elexicon culture. So certainly it begins there particularly when you're a merged entity and early in your consolidation story. I'm sure Vinay hears me on this since we've lived that one together. But developing the culture of the new organization that you've formed, it's critically important because otherwise you can't possibly execute on any strategic initiatives, but ED&I needs to be a part of that culture from the get go. I'm quite proud that in kind of a reset of when you start a new organization that there's been this emphasis on let's get that piece of it right and certainly in the communities that we serve, East of Toronto, our employee base is reflective of the communities that we serve. I know others on this screen, in the Hollywood Squares, place that same emphasis as well but when I spoke about the diversity amongst my leadership team, or the executive team, is 7/8 women, 25% of colour as well. There is the imparting the view that you can reach this goal as well and I've think we've heard it in some of the discussion thus far that people that don't see that they can aspire to that end, that high level or senior leadership or executive role, then we see that 40% potential exodus because they don't know how to get there. So representation matters and so I'm certainly proud and feel that it's a success story of Elexicon Energy that that's part of our composition as well.
Neena: Laura, you sort of started us off on this discussion of the importance of looking at solutions. Having listened to the others any final thoughts on strategies that actually really work in terms of moving the needle forward?
Laura: Yes, so I'm happy to share a couple. I actually went through our database of solutions and pulled out a few that have demonstrated to be impassable in the energy sector. So I have a couple of specific programs but I have to say often what we coach our clients, avoid the urge to throw darts, and start with beta. So I think at the end of day just kind of reacting to the latest protest, or the latest movement, that's not the way to drive sustainable change. So my advice is always survey employees to ask them. Create that safe space for them to share feedback, to self-identify if they'd like to, and then tell you what the barriers are that they're facing. Then once you've collected that data, honestly, I've seen nothing more powerful that putting an inclusion scorecard in front of an executive team with green and red boxes and allowing them to see people of colour say that there's bias in our feedback processes. Or people with a disability lack mentors. The data makes it very clear where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are. So I think taking that first step of understanding what are the biggest problem areas within your unique environment is a structural program that I would suggest first. Then I think beyond that, looking at kind of common problems within the sector, things that really do tend to help are things like formal mentorship programs or formal sponsorship programs. The kind of twist here is there's always an impulse to pair women with women but it can be much more effective to pair senior men with junior women and make sure that everybody's equipped and ready to have those conversations and knows what they're trying to achieve. I think, again, going back to allyship. Often we're very lucky, we're in a moment, and God bless millennials and Gen Z. They are ready to activate and they are ready to be supporters of the community. So it's formalizing that, and coaching people even on cultural sensitivity, people want to be supportive but they're worried about saying the wrong things. So just giving them a little bit of that extra guidance can go a long way. You're taking it out of HR hands so it really becomes a grassroots type of inclusion effort.
Neena: Laura, excellent ideas and I like the idea that we have a little bag, a Mary Poppins bag, of solutions that people can contact you about and actually talk about what might work for their organization. Because we certainly have benefited from consultants coming in and talking to us about what might work and, quite frankly, what might not work because that's an important conversation to have because I think there's a tendency to go onto Google, find a great program and try to fit it to your organization and yet it might not actually work. So thank you, Laura. One solution that we got, I don't know if it's a solution if that's the right word actually, but one thing that comes up more frequently than it did before, and certainly as a law firm when we're bidding for work from people in the energy sector, we see requests about diversity data, or there's a form of supplier diversity program, essentially putting suppliers, contractors on notice that we have an expectation, quite frankly, that our supplier share our values. Some of those questions are really, especially if you're working for American clients, very detailed and very pointed. Some of the questions are who's getting credit for the file? Who's doing the work? What percentage of work is being done by the BIPOC community? So I'm going to pick somebody at random. I think I'm going to pick Indy because she really is the center of my Hollywood Squares, just so you know, so probably not the best position if you're trying to avoid being noticed. But, Indy, tell me a little bit about your reaction to the call that all of us should have supplier diversity policies or questions.
Indy: I can't even remember from watching Hollywood Squares, years ago, what it meant to be center square but I'm glad that I'm okay with making eye contact and being called on first. I think it's such an interesting question and in fact it's not one that's new. Right? Because when greening our business environment became a thing, and now it's a permanent thing, certainly we saw major corporations, Walmart, etcetera, looking down their supply chains for how green those that supplied to them were. So when we consider ED&I, and now this same question about diversity amongst our suppliers, I can't see how it, one there's no harm, but two, I believe it's actually from an external perspective how you achieve success. Because, I forget the expression, like whether you're a drop in the ocean or the whole ocean, you can't get to being beyond just the drop in the ocean if only your organization is doing that one thing. But if you are asking everybody around you to also pull in that same direction that's exactly how greening becomes just the way that we do things. Like meaning greening things or being sustainable becomes the way or the approach of the business world. So similarly when we consider ED&I and we extend it beyond just our own organization but it is included in supplier diversity, or expectations on supplier diversity, certainly that's how we achieve success. There's certainly the visible social impact to that but then there's the perhaps initially unseen commercial impact. But it's how smaller organizations that are diverse that otherwise might not get in on those contracts now have an opportunity. I don't think it's when you compare it to putting a lens on, or being specific, about ensuring that under-represented individuals in your organization have the opportunity, so jobs are posted broadly, it's just not shoulder tapping, etcetera, I don't see it as very different from a business perspective because you're putting a specific lens on, look, you might not be the big corporate entity that everyone turns to, Small Business X, but here's the opportunity and the wedge in order to be able to be part of these broader supply chains. I certainly think, and I think I made the comment at the top of the call, that it actually is a part of embedding ED&I into the purpose of the organization, the culture of the organization, the strategy of the organization. I think they're fundamentally linked.
Neena: I see Lisa and Laura nodding their heads. I'm going to assume, Lisa, any comments about supplier diversity policies? Have you seen them more?
Lisa: I'm really excited about the conversation, and I think it's the early stages, but I did want to kind of give a shoutout to Vinay and the team at Alectra who are going to be participating with us as a partner on the Canada Wide Benchmark study to look at representation in the Canada Energy Management sector and be able to again find partners within the Canadian landscape. Hopefully across Canada that see the value in, again, not only with the organizations but the greater world at large. The supply chain, the customers and such so that it becomes just an overriding them in how we do business.
Laura: I can maybe pile on here.
Neena: Yes, Laura, you were the other person nodding. Yes, absolutely.
Laura: Indy, I think I've agreed with everything you've said this whole panel, but I think so much, and I mean this in a positive way, so much of excelling ED&I is about sign posting. At the end of the day if you hold yourself out authentically, because let's be real, millennials will figure it out if you're making it up, but if you hold yourself out as a diverse and inclusive employer you're going to attract a much wider talent pool. Again, in the context of the great resignation, imagine the power of doubling the number of qualified employees that submit applications and resumes, then frankly, the power of having a positive culture as a retention tool. So I think being able to show this and demonstrate that you are committed goes a really long way and I think to apply to diversity is another vector there, frankly, and while I was working with the Trump/Trudeau Council for Advancement of Women, we did a deep dive on supplier diversity and the economic impacts said corporations that have adopted these programs ... and they're extremely positive. It's the same principle that look, you're attracting a more diverse set of suppliers who maybe aren't the best at self-promoting. Maybe they're not the category leader but they're extremely efficient, they're extremely innovative. They connect to different communities. They help you expand your reach, tap into new markets, better service existing markets and communities. I think even if it's purely a business imperative I think supplier diversity makes a lot of sense. Whether or not, quite frankly, you're at the beginning of your 1,000 step journey or further along. That's my view.
Neena: I honestly think for law firms, some of those pointed questions that are being started, we same them being asked and there were more and more detailed about a decade ago. I think that was a powerful push or nudge for the executives to say, "Oh. This is maybe something we should do." So as a supplier to the energy industry, supplier diversity policies actually, I think, have impacted law firms, which shouldn't surprise you, have a bit of a conservative culture. I know some of our listeners are not large organizations or organizations that perhaps haven't seen the light of day yet. I'll tell you personally, I've worked in those organizations where maybe the general organization hasn't seen the light of day yet. I'm going to ask you to sort of maybe switch gears and so there are some South Asians on this call, and you know the famous phrase, be the change, or there's a wonderful poem by Ted Gore who talks about if no one needs your call, take the first step anyway. It's just a lovely, lovely poem about the importance of showing leadership and maybe perhaps having a whole quota of people around you. I'm going to ask each of you to think about what we can do as a power of one and I think I'm actually going to start with Susannah, because you're in a large organization, but I suspect you've been there for a long time. So the power of one. What can we do as individuals that actually matters?
Susannah: You didn't have this in the pre-call so <laughter>
Neena: I said that everyone, if I could, would get a chance to speak so I thought I'd pick on you, Susannah.
Susannah: Yeah, that's fine. I have been in a variety of organizations. I've been at EPCOR 3 years but I've been in small organizations. I've been in startups. It was a startup where I had Charlotte that I was able to take her into work and put curtains up in my window so I could nurse her during the day. I have had a variety of experiences but I think leading by example. That doesn't really matter if you're a large or a small organization, I don't want to sound kind of cliche, but walking the walk and talking the talk. I think listening as well, and that's a skill, and that's a skill I constantly work on, but really actively listening and hearing. Even if you're in a small organization do your people feel included and what areas do you have to work on? We've talked about lots of successes here and all the things that we're trying to do and recognizing that we're on the beginning of a journey. But recently I heard that one of our LGBTQ+ employees left because they didn't feel included. That just demonstrated how much work we have to do. But equally I took away from that is I think, I don't want to put a timeframe on it, but 5 years ago, 10 years ago, that employee probably would have just left and not shared the reasons why they left. I take that as a positive in that situation. Again, just listening and learning from these experiences. I hope that's helpful.
Neena: Vinay, you're the optimistic one, what is the power of one? What can we do in a small place? Maybe you don't have institutional support.
Vinay: I think it's tough if you are depending on sort of your level within the organization. But let's have an assumption that there's someone who has the ability to communicate at various levels. I think, first of all, having a real genuine commitment to ED&I and voicing that commitment. Whether that means calling out colleagues when something happens that's inappropriate. It could be at different levels. But I think, again working under the assumption that you have the ability to shift things internally with an organization that's necessarily starting out, I think you can do things by encouraging the organization, or as an individual, celebrating differences and whatever that may mean. Look into your organization. Are there opportunities to celebrate differences? Lots of educational resources exist online. Whether it's YouTube, Instagram, etcetera, and social media generally and make those educational tools available and encourage your organization to make those things available. At Alectra, for Truth and Reconciliation Week, there was a 5 day national online event that we encouraged employees to participate in. I think when you bring those things to the forefront, and encourage employees at all levels to participate, at an individual level you can at least get the conversation going and I think that's a big step forward for many organizations.
Neena: Lisa, any ideas when you're in a small organization?
Lisa: Well, gosh, personally I'm all for kind of building your bench. If it's within the organization that you don't find that kind of inclusivity or let's say a mentorship kind of relationship where you can strive and find excellence and have a voice. I know, Vinay, you talked about women and renewable energy. I was part of the advisory board in 2013 when we put that together and, again, it was to offer a safe haven for women in the energy management space that were under-represented to give them a voice, to give them opportunities to learn and ask questions in a really safe environment. So similarly with StepUp Energy Management. So our mission is really to assist organizations in the energy management sector to advance women and marginalized groups to see sweep rolls, and board rolls, and we do that through a number of different ways through whether or not it's an open office environment, with StepUp speaker series or other sessions that we ourselves host to discuss these kind of really, really important topics. So build your bench in life and be propelled by the powers around you. I firmly believe in that. It's worked great for me and I can't stress it enough.
Neena: So, Laura, I'm going to have you as my bridge person, which is to talk both about maybe some things that can be done individually but also some of the tips that you would give. You've talked about benchmarking but some other tips you might make for people on the call who think, "You know we'd really like to boost our ED&I pace." So, Laura, you're next.
Laura: It's funny. I was about to go off script but that was a great tee up for a thought I just had. You mentioned something at the beginning of the call about, you didn't say preaching to the choir, but more or less getting together. People who are already committed and talking to other people who are also committed. So I think that kind of question around scaling is how do you change the hearts and minds and behaviours, frankly, of everyone else in the organization and recognizing that especially if you have a D&I committee that's doing this off the side of their desk, they can't be doing one on one coaching at the same time as their jobs. I think that one thing that can be really effective is, an hear me out, but integrating ED&I into performance reviews, in particular bonus. The idea here is, and I really firmly believe this, like at the end of the day you need the senior people of the organization to have a reason and consistently behave in a way that's inclusive. Again, going back to you need a data collection framework in order to tie goals to performance reviews but if you can provide an incentive, so people who may have a million other things on the go, to be inclusive and figure out what the problem is and drive the solution and be ranked highly for it by their peers and their director of boards. That can go a really long way. So I think that would be the organizational level transformation that can drive a lot of individual behaviour change.
Neena: That's a great thing because I'm a real believer of it's not just what gets measured gets done. What gets rewarded gets done. So the idea of tying compensation or bonuses to an explicit ED&I, either a metric or behaviours, is for me a really important tip that we can think of. Ironically enough, doesn't necessarily have to cost more. It's just shifting what you think is important behaviours. I'm going to actually ask each panelist if they have something that they want to share, if there was one thought bubble, one idea of something that works in an organization. I'm going to start with Vinay. What would your tip be? I've forgotten everything we've talked about in the last 70 minutes. What would be the one thing that you'd want for them to do as an organization?
Vinay: The one thing I think would be to at least start the conversation, and for those organizations that are not doing so, and to start the conversation rather genuinely. Not because you have to tick off a box but because you want to make those genuine changes and recognize the real value of ED&I. I think just starting that conversation, among many other. I know there's time constraints so I'll stop at that but I think having the conversation is very critical. I would add, sorry if I could, I think what's really important and, Laura can speak to this way better than I can, but is harnessing that data. Gathering that data and being able not just to gather data for the sake of data but being able to analyze it with the people are who trained to be able to analyze that data and give you real intel your organization and help you manifest that into an appropriate strategy.
Neena: Absolutely. Susannah, I'm wondering if there was one thing, the one thing that people should leave with from this panel, what would you want them? What's your tip to actually move the needle?
Susannah: I think we've touched on it, especially with workforce that's coming in, but it's authenticity. It's just being authentic in everything that you do. If you don't you're going to get called on it. 100%. I think if you ask what one thing was that word resonates with me.
Neena: Authentic leadership. This generation can really tell a phony probably better than any other generation before it and there's no tolerance for it.
Neena: Lisa, sort of words of wisdom that people can sort of takeaway.
Lisa: A couple of things. I love the refrain of do I see myself here? For anybody looking at an organization and that's the first thing I look at when I'm kind of checking out who's doing what and who's the real influencers in the space? What do their management teams look like? What are the boards look like? Sometimes I shake my head and say, "Yeah. They don't match. I don't believe it. What you say and what you do are very, very different." Secondly, I sat in on a keynote a couple of years ago where the speaker really spoke to listening to the next generation, and gone are the days where elders know best because I learned so much from my own sons that are in their 20's and the wisdom that they have, and the jumps and leaps that they're making in terms of a world that's very inclusive, it's really admirable. It's exciting and I want to see a world where colour is not something that we think about. It is. It's part of our landscape. It's part of our beauty. Couple of closing words from me.
Neena: Indy, practical words of wisdom for people to takeaway from this panel.
Indy: I echo the sentiments of my colleagues. All of those are extremely valuable. Perhaps the one that I would add to that is, we talked a lot about millennials and how they'll call us out, but I think we need to remember that there's a big workforce that still exists that's non-millennial. They have stories and experiences and so I think if you were starting out, and you knew nothing else, I think you need to be creating the safe space and the brave space, for people to tell you what their lived experience is. I think that dovetails quite nicely with being an authentic leader, so being willing to listen, and with measuring, as Vinay said, the data. Understanding what your workplace is comprised of. But I think you also need to be willing to hear the sometimes cringe worthy and experiences that people have lived because if you're not willing to listen to that, and understand that those are some of the scars or the baggage that people carry with them, then it's very difficult to understand what it is you need to address and how you appropriately hit that mark to make it different and better for them and for millennials, other Gens, coming behind them.
Neena: Awesome. Very thought provoking and I suspect that everyone of us on this call could really have some pointed stories, good stories, but also some very hurtful stories. Laura, you've talked a lot about benchmarking, measuring, really taking a deep dive in the data, but in addition to that, so now that you have the data, what would your tip be as we sort of come close to the last 15 minutes of this call?
Laura: For sure. I think organizational, transformation. I think it's understanding the urgency and I think the beauty of this moment, at least from my perspective is, we're not manufacturing anything. So I think the level, we do a lot of work in the investor space, and the level of activity among institutional investors, who are literally getting together and saying what metrics can we ask, collectively, all of us with one voice to get authentic data from organizations on how inclusive they are. They're ready to go. Sooner rather than later, and it's probably sooner, this topic will affect your cost of capital. That's one factor out of many. You're also looking at performance outcomes. You're looking at talent attractiveness. It's a little bit like the innovation revolution. If you don't adopt the internet soon enough you don't have time to come back from that. So I think there's studying this as an organization priority, I think commensurate with the criticality of the topic, and then getting your executive team to really act on it.
Neena: Laura, it's interesting what you say about institutional investors. I was attending a symposium sponsored by BDC and they've done some interesting work for the companies that they invest them, in terms of diversity and inclusion and their expectations, all of which is available publicly and I think I've posted it on my LinkedIn site this morning. Very interesting that they're asking questions that a decade ago I don't think was even on their radar.
Laura: Neena, sorry, just to jump in there. We powered that effort and the types of questions that they asked were at the employee level. Asking the employees of the companies that they're invested in, have you experienced harassment? Investors they care. This is not like window dressing effort, and to your point, that effort has sparked all of the other Canadian pensions to think through what are we doing? What are we asking for? Sorry.
Neena: No, no. Listen, we know that all of us could talk forever. I do want to give the participants a chance to ask questions. We've actually had some questions come in and I'm going to ask, Laura, since you've got the mic, James ... is asking whether or not there are some recommended samples or templates that you would recommend for surveys or inclusion store cards. I know that in fact you and Lisa are kind or working on these issues. So, wondering if you could check that out.
Laura: So really quickly, James, we actually have opened source our questions and our methodology for measuring inclusion. So I'm happy to, if you ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or I can put our website in the chat. There's a primary resource available in case it's helpful.
Neena: Yes, what I'll do also is we are going to send, along with the thank you of this, a series of materials that are low cost or no cost that we found in our diversity journey were very helpful, including the Harvard Implicit Bias Assessment, the LinkedIn Learning Unconscious Bias and some other resources and, Laura, we'll add your resource to that list as well. A great question from ... ... Not surprised because I know ... well. One of the joys of diversity is that there often differing perspectives. Perhaps a more fractious decision making consultation process, because people from different backgrounds and different perspectives, that's often confused with weakness or lack of solidarity like teams that are homogenous may actually get to conclusions quicker and faster and so having that diversity is often seen as you're not on the team, you're not efficient, you're getting in the way. How do we deal with that perception? I'm opening it to anybody who wants to take it. Raise your hand whoever wants to go first.
Lisa: Neena, I wanted to back up a step and talk about the resources available from Gowling to the audience. They do include references for Indigenous studies and some of the resources available and really implore everybody to learn as much as you can. Get really familiar so that when we're talking about these, the children and Indigenous women and girls that are missing, that they actually have a foundation of understanding behind it so that they too can understand and move forward on a path to righting the wrong. So that was a great resource and I just though it would be worth mentioning. But the last question I'm going to pass that over to somebody else.
Neena: Great duck. Great duck. I've seen that in law where there's kind of a perception that if you don't sort of, almost like in a military, where you've got the general and then everybody just kind of tucks right in and there isn't a lot of diversity around the table. How do you deal with the perception that diverse groups are harder to manage? They are more fractious. It's a weakness. Vinay.
Vinay: I think we've all spoken about this but I think ultimately it's about education. We haven't spent a lot of time talking about unconscious bias which is a significant topic in and of its own. By definition what we're talking about is the resolution to that very issue or to the attempted resolution of that very issue. The fact that you have a diverse group that come from maybe different cultures, and have different approaches to decision making, only enriches the decision in and of itself. I think this expectation that you have an homogenous group that's going to come through on an homogeneous process on a decision, in and of itself, is where I think we're trying to evolve away from and to allow different perspectives at the table. So I think it's part and parcel. A big part of is education. I think, to add to that is, notwithstanding someone may be a CEO, an executive Vice President, Senior Vice President, whatever it may be is I always take the view of not to make assumptions about people. It doesn't matter what their education is. Everyone has different lived experiences and it's important for all of us, myself included, to be educated on various topics. I think that's an important part of dealing with that issue.
Neena: I saw Indy nod her head, I think. Do you want to go ahead?
Indy: Sure. I agree with Vinay that it's actually about this education journey on what is that we're trying to achieve and I think when you get people to appreciate that having heterogenous group, or a diverse group, and hearing from multiple voices is valuable. That's when you know that people appreciate that that is a strength and not a weakness. I think we talked about what does success look like. That is one of the outcomes of success but it's not an authoritarian organization, that the person who holds that last seat, they call the shot and nobody else's view matters. I think the other piece is helping, and this is cultural, helping within your organization for people to understand that their voice, at any particular level, matters. On their team that they are part of, that that matters. If you don't want it to be seen as a weakness it's something that needs to be, one, well understood but also has to be replicated throughout the organization. That way it's an understanding that that's the fabric of how decision making happens and that's it not weak. It's actually the height of informed.
Neena: Yes. That would be a great cultural shift to get to. We have an excellent question. I'm not going to actually name the person. I have to say I have seen this happen. So the question is very specific. A man of a certain age and generation in this energy sector, and the way that they deal with female sales people, and it ranges from just being dismissive to highly inappropriate. The questioner has been around for 25 years, so she's not a young women, but she still finds it very disconcerting when she meets that behaviour and it's in a sales environment so you want to make the sale. So the customer's king, if you will, to use a very sexist expression. So, what do you do? The questioner calls up her company and says they're very supportive but the problem is the real industry. It's on the buying side. So what we can do as organizations to essentially nip that behaviour in the bud? I have seen it. A young, attractive recent graduate knows her stuff, is absolutely dismissed or is really ranked on her sexual attractiveness, to be very blunt, and whether or not she would be open for an encounter. Both of which are highly inappropriate because she came there to sell products. I'm going to ask Laura. What should we do as an industry to try to deal with that because that's a problem I believe people are facing every day. Maybe the pandemic has made that a bit better. Maybe that's one of the good things about the pandemic but pre-pandemic I saw it more than I cared to confess.
Laura: I'll say, Neena, I think that men of a certain disposition are quite creative and don't let the digital world stop them. I think at the end of the day, in my view, the onus is on companies and, quite frankly, that's a liability. If you have someone representing your company who's behaving in that way, if ever there was a reason to incite Twitter, that's it. So my view is that it's a tough situation if you obviously don't have a way to probably have feedback mechanism set up to capture feedback from sales people, but I do think if you're collecting data from your employees about their experience and then using that to identify, is there a culture of harassment here? Are there any internal complaints about harassment? Typically that kind of behaviour is manifested both internally and externally so I think, as an organization, a good first step really is to get that authentic quality data on how employees are behaving and then, again, treating it like the lack of respect that it is, if that comes to the surface. I don't know if others have a different view.
Lisa: I think there's a few factors here when we talk about the sales person herself. I think it's really appropriate to go back to the employer and talk about the partners and the customers that we have that keep us in business. I think that's where the standard and the acceptable practices need to be reviewed just once again. I think we're far enough, hopefully, along, I think many of us on this panel have all experienced and we probably still will experience it. It's harder to experience it from home for sure, Neena, it doesn't happen as often but it still is a very difficult situation to diffuse. One, it has happened, I know myself. What I try to do is actually try and find an opportunity, in a setting that's still safe, but to address so that you're not grandstanding and you're not putting anybody in a position where they would feel offended. So there are good approaches to it but essentially it's up to employers to make their employees and their team members feel accepted and safe. So, that's how I feel.
Neena: If you have a supportive company I think this may be the opportunity for a CEO to CEO call. This is not about whether my products are the right products for anyone of these the panelists, the companies that are on the call, this is about the experience that, and I will say younger, attractive women, face when they came on a sales call and I just want to give you the heads up because I know this is not in conformity with your values and how you want, separate and apart from the actual sales process. Procurements are very powerful and so do you want to jeopardize a quarter million dollar deal, or a million dollar deal, because you were the squeaky wheel that complained about a highly respected procurement officer, is always a difficult question but at some point in time there's got to be that CEO to CEO discussion saying you need to know this because neither of us want this to be on Twitter, on social media, or just even on glass ceiling or, worse, an opinion piece about why women shouldn't go into the energy sector. Right?
So, Tom, I promised you that I would keep these brilliant people on time. I'm pretty close to keeping my promise to you. We could have talked all day. I hope the participants have actually gotten something out of it and, Tom, I hope you got what you thought the Energy Innovators Roundtable really was aimed to be.
Tom: Thank you, Neena, and thank you, Indy, Vinay, and Laura, and Susannah, and Lisa. Thank you, everyone, who participated. I see that our audience numbers actually didn't go down during this discussion so it was obviously topical. I really do want to thank our panelists for sharing their thoughts and their experience and their intelligence. I took away a lot of really good points here. If you have anybody feedback, this is for the audience and our panelists, on today's discussion, or thoughts or ideas on today's discussion, or ideas for future events or topics for the roundtable, please don't hesitate to contact me. I've heard some wonderful things from people regarding past sessions. Before we go I'll leave you with a reminder regarding our next Energy Innovators Roundtable on Thursday, November 18, where once again we're going to be taking a look at the impact of COP26 on the power and energy sectors. Until then, thank you again, everyone. We look forward to seeing you then and stay safe. Thanks, everyone.