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Diversity officers discuss how energy sector builds culture of inclusion

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In the latest edition of CERAWeek Conversations, the chief diversity and inclusion officers of Chevron and Duke Energy discuss how the oil, gas and power industries have been fostering cultures of diversity and equity, and the initiatives they are taking to amplify those priorities in response to the events of 2020.

In a conversation with Daniel Yergin, vice chairman, IHS Markit, Joni Davis, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Duke Energy, and Lee Jourdan, chief diversity officer, Chevron, discuss the impact that the events around race relations in 2020 have had on their companies; share the strategies to advance more inclusive and equity-focused agendas across their networks and stakeholders; explore workplace conversations around "privilege;" and the efforts to recruit diverse workforces for the future.

The complete video is available at: www.ceraweek.com/conversations.

  • On 2020 catalyzing the agenda for diversity, equity and inclusion:

Joni Davis, Duke Energy: "We've focused on diversity, equity and inclusion at Duke Energy for many years now. When I came into the role, we jumpstarted several initiatives to really give us a keen focus on it. 2020 really catalyzed those efforts after George Floyd and the race equity movement. Diversity and inclusion were top of mind for so many of our employees and within our communities. I believe that 2020 ushered in the opportunity to accelerate and really sustain diversity, equity and inclusion like never before.

"2020 has been a very emotional, thought-provoking, exhausting and very defining year. Most of us have looked in the mirror personally and organizationally to see what we're made of and who we are. From our perspective of how we processed it, it really personalized for us what diversity, equity and inclusion mean at Duke Energy." 

  • On company initiatives to address racial equity and promote diversity and inclusion:

Lee Jourdan, Chevron: "We really increased the courageous conversations we've had. We've had in-depth conversations with our executive leadership teams and opened their eyes to things they weren't aware of before.

"We are, I think still, the only oil and gas company to use the term "Black Lives Matter." That was important to us because we recognize the true intent of that term. So, we became public in our support of what was happening in the black community. A number of our executives, starting with the chairman, were very public about how it personally affected them. We posted the comments both on our website and in social media. That set the tone for our organization to have more vulnerable conversations about what was going on, which built a foundation for sustainable conversations in the future. It has changed a lot.

"We became the epicenter for all the conversations around this. There were groups of people that thought we weren't talking about this enough and there were groups of people that thought we were talking about it too much. Being where we are, we had to manage all of that.

"Some of the most striking things to me [is] we're hearing the stories. All African American and people of color, or anyone in an underrepresented group, has their stories to tell. But you're really only aware of your own. We keep a lot of those to ourselves. But this brought all of them out. Hearing the stories of my colleagues and their reactions and things they had faced both outside of work and in the office were very impactful—not just to me, but to those who hadn't heard them. That was the good thing—those that hadn't been subjected to those things became aware that they occur on a regular basis. Although that was difficult, once we began to move through that threshold, we could have the conversations that we needed to have."

Davis: "At the start of the race equity movement and George Floyd's murder, our CEO came out immediately and spoke to our values and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as a part of who we are as a company. We launched into our ‘Pathways to Inclusion' conversation series. That was an opportunity for us to really get to the heart at what diversity means at Duke Energy, what inclusion means at Duke Energy, and what is our path forward from that. 

"The way that we chose to approach this was to give employees an opportunity to just have honest and open conversations in a safe place. We equipped our leaders to help facilitate, just for employees to have the opportunity to process their feelings, to talk about how they feel. Some wanted to talk and some just simply wanted to listen. It was such a wonderful opportunity for our entire team to build awareness.

"It's exhausting, it's a labor of love, but it has been very meaningful. I really see the fruit of how we can make sustainable and impactful change as a result of this—leveraging this momentum that's been built. It's been wonderful, but yet it has been exhausting...recalibrating our strategies to be sure that we are serving the needs of our employees and our leaders in our communities at this juncture." 

  • On structuring workplace conversations around "white privilege:"

Jourdan: "Privilege has become a four-letter word that is difficult to have a conversation around. I've developed a way to talk about that that can remove some of that defensiveness and allow people to have a conversation about it and understand why it's important. Privilege, and typically we talk about white privilege, it doesn't mean that you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It doesn't mean you didn't earn what you have. It doesn't mean you didn't have to overcome obstacles to get to where you are. It just means of those obstacles, none of them were based on the color of your skin. Everyone has some level of privilege." 

  • On diversity data within industry:

Jourdan: "A lot of times you'll see data that has two categories: Women and minorities. In 2018 we began disaggregating the minority data in the U.S. by Asian-American, Hispanic-Americans and Black Americans. What we found is that there may be one of those groups that isn't doing as well, and you could bury that if you just talk about minorities. We became the first oil and gas company to start disaggregating that data publicly about two years ago. It's really been able to drive different conversations than we've had in the past.

Davis: "For several years we have disaggregated underneath minorities or people of color, different races and ethnicities. Beginning next year, we will also show that same data stratified at different leadership levels. As this journey is continuing, I think you'll start to see so many other companies that are beginning to provide much more transparency around their data at different levels, but also be able to chronicle their journey." 

  • On recruiting diverse talent into the oil, gas and power industries:

Davis: "When I look at the electric and gas industry compared to retail industries our diversity data does not seem to be as robust. I know we have work to do. We absolutely understand that. We have set a workforce representation target at Duke Energy at 25% female, 20% people of color. At the end of last year, we were about one percent away from that target...we understand what the journey is. We've got commitment from our leadership."

Jourdan: "It's been a challenge in the energy business to attract people from underrepresented groups and that has been a main focus of ours. Our goal is to reflect what the markets provide in terms of what's coming out of universities and what's available in the experienced market. We track those and set aspirational goals around where we want to be. Where we're challenged the most is in the area of engineering and analytics, STEM subjects. We've invested a significant amount of time and effort in those spaces. We've invested some $400 million since 2013 in STEM education."

Davis: "We made a much more intentional focus around going places where we would be able to speak to diverse talent whether it be historically black college and universities (HBCUs), the Society of Women Engineers, National Association of Black Engineers and being very active in those spaces in order to tell diverse talent about our roles. A big part of it is around awareness of the roles that we have. The electric and gas industry feels a little stodgy for many of our talent that is coming out of colleges and universities—they are looking at Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. We were very intentional about trying to reach bright, wonderful and diverse candidates where they exist."

Jourdan: "We recruited our first HBCU graduate in 1979 and he's been with us for 41 years. We recruit regularly from HBCUs. This year we invited the president of the Thurgood Marshall Fund, who oversees a network of HBCU presidents, to meet with our C-Suite. We sat down with them for an hour and a half and talked to them about what they need. Along with that we wanted to understand how we can become a better partner, what is it that you need, how can we expand this pipeline and get more involved in your programs from the ground up?

"Also, we're not just focusing on HBCUs. We look at PWIs—Predominantly White Institutions. We develop programs with universities like the University of Illinois, Texas A&M and Mississippi State to provide a feeder pipeline from junior colleges and sponsor people from underrepresented groups into that pipeline so they have a stepping stone from those junior colleges into those larger universities and then from there we provide interviews for internships."

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