Focusing on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the Waterpower Industry

The waterpower industry recognizes a lack of diversity in its workforce, in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. This lack of diversity (illustrated in the chart below) means the industry is missing out on voices and leaders who could strengthen waterpower’s future.

And, worse, the lack of diversity will inevitably lead to stagnation. Because all people exhibit “cognitive bias,”(defined at the bottom of this article) each individual can only solve the problems they understand. As new problems arise, the industry needs to add new and diverse perspectives to create new solutions.

Recognizing the lack of diversity as a problem that needs to be addressed is the first step.

The real challenge is how to create an environment that is conducive to attracting and retaining diverse professionals. A session at the upcoming virtual Waterpower Week, owned and organized by the National Hydropower Association (NHA), will offer insight on this topic, in the context of the policy and regulatory sector on the industry.

Figure 1. Demographics of workers in hydroelectric generation, 2017. Reprinted from U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pg.44), January 2017, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy.

Actions That Will Lead to Change

The goal is to have a diverse array of voices and perspectives in all levels of an organization, from mid-level managerial positions all the way to C-suite executives. In order for this to happen, workers need to be empowered from the genesis of their careers and given the experience that will make them promotable.

For young and diverse professionals, this means creating a welcoming work environment and providing career development, whether that is through mentorship programs, networking events, inclusion in brainstorming meetings, and/or invitations to speak and participate at industry events.

For hiring managers, solving this challenge requires more proactivity and thinking more creatively when reviewing prospective hires. A prospective hire might ostensibly have all the qualifications of the job, but it is also important to evaluate hires in terms of value-add and fresh perspectives. It is estimated that about 70% of job openings are never posted online, and that a possible 80% of jobs are filled through networking.

For all of us, listening and interacting with each other to better understand the situation and learn what can be done to affect change is vital. Participating in the Facing the Workplace Diversity Challenge at Waterpower Week is one place to do just that. Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the Hydropower Foundation, has organized and is leading this 1-hour discussion, with the aim of exploring how attendees can proactively address unconscious biases in the policy and regulatory sector of the industry and expand outreach to non-traditional prospective hires.

Register for the Waterpower Week, including this session, here.

Why It Matters

Diversity, equality, and inclusion is a virtuous cycle that will provide individual organizations and the entire waterpower industry with positive externalities. The more diverse voices and perspectives we have at the table, the more we are able to overcome obstacles in the growth and advocacy of the industry.