From Policy to Practice: How the National Hydropower Association is Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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From Policy to Practice: How the National Hydropower Association is Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


May 1, 2023


Marycella Dumlao, CMP, Meeting Planner and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Lead, National Hydropower Association


From Policy to Practice: How the National Hydropower Association is Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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As the hydropower industry grows and student outreach increases, one of the biggest factors dictating the success of employment efforts is retention. Retention begets the question of how to create an attractive and productive environment, one that will inspire future generations to work and invest their careers in waterpower. This question will be a topic of conversation at convention after convention, as it’s critically important for the waterpower industry’s future.

One of the key components in creating an office where every employee feels wanted, safe, and valued relies on creating a feeling of belonging through practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

According to a 2020 study by McKinsey, companies that have more than 30% women on executive teams are significantly more likely to outperform those with between 10 – 30 % women. As gender diversity decreased, so did performance. McKinsey found a performance differential of 48% between the most and least gender-diverse companies.

There are countless more studies and articles that tout the importance of, and lay the business case for, diversity. Forbes published findings that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. The Harvard Business Review asserted that when diverse teams capitalized on the differing viewpoints of their members, they doubled their chances at success.

It is safe to say that diversity is simply not a feel-good trend.

Graph depicting McKinsey & Company’s findings on diversity in executive teams.


 In 2022, the Board of Directors of the National Hydropower Association (NHA) voted to codify an all-encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion policy.

The policy went into action immediately, as it touched all of NHA’s operations, and it impacted nominations for leadership positions within the association and Board of Directors, the selection of conference session speakers, as well as highlighting practices NHA has already implemented over the past years designed to improve inclusion in the industry.

Additionally, the policy added language to systematize these changes, which was an important and historic step in creating a permanent culture shift. Part of that change includes NHA’s work to ensure that historically excluded populations have access to tools that will jumpstart their careers in the waterpower industry.

“As an industry, we have made diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority,” said Malcolm Woolf, NHA’s CEO & President. “Our industry must constantly examine our progress, improving our efforts to create a more inclusive work environment. As we celebrate the diversity of our nation, we are actively seeking ways to create opportunities for traditionally underserved communities. By advancing equity across the industry– through our work to spur a clean energy economy – we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved.”

In addition to the policy commitment upholding DEI, NHA created a group called Future Leaders of Waterpower (FLOW) to support the career growth of young professionals and those new to the waterpower industry.

At its core, FLOW seeks to connect young professionals, including people from diverse communities and diverse backgrounds, with unique opportunities for exposure within the waterpower industry and create pathways for professional growth.

Since its inception, FLOW has grown largely by word-of-mouth and now boasts over 300 participants from across the industry. Members have spoken at NHA’s national events, authored articles on NHA’s POWERHOUSE media platform, and even used their leadership in FLOW to negotiate career advancements.


On Global Hydropower Day in 2022, NHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET). This historic MOU established a framework for the advancement of gender equality, empowers women in the energy sector, and furthers NHA’s commitment to equality in the industry.

Earlier this year, NHA joined the ranks of other renewable energy trade associations, as well as tech behemoths, as a new member of Renewables Forward. Founded in 2020 to address historic economic and social inequities, Renewables Forward’s member organizations commit to taking action within their industries to champion a new system of diversity, equity, and inclusion that elevates opportunities for all. As a member of Renewables Forward, NHA has access to cutting-edge corporate practices and policies that will help create a more diverse and inclusive clean energy future.

To support this effort, NHA’s staff underwent an initial implicit bias training in March of 2023 and committed to continuing the learning during a bi-weekly “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Moment.” The hope is to foster discussion on different DEI concepts among staff and how these concepts can be applied to NHA’s work in advocating for waterpower.


For more information on how NHA is implementing DEI priorities, and how other organizations can get involved, please reach out to Marycella Dumlao at