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Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the energy and resources sector

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Our digital grid practice leader Sonika Sood and I had the pleasure of hosting the incredibly insightful Dr. Rachael N. Pettigrew, PhD for an EY Canada webcast on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the energy and resources sector.

Rachael is a friend and Professor at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University and has spent her career on gender, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

During the webcast, Rachael shared how Canadian demographics are changing fast. These include education, an aging population (1 in 5 adults nearing retirement), declining fertility rates, increased immigration (25% of Canadians are immigrants, and according to Stats Canada, immigrants contributed to 79.9% of Canada's labour force growth from 2016 - 2021), and gender roles. According to Careers in Energy, one such challenge facing the industry is the war for talent. Between 2014 and 2022, Alberta’s total energy labour force declined nearly 20%, with labour in the energy services subsector down 44% in the same period.

With these changes comes tremendous risk but also opportunity. In fact, with the energy transition upon us, we need to find new ways to attract and retain top talent to the industry, transform and innovate, and DE&I has a critical role to play.

A few considerations that Rachael certainly helped me appreciate included:

  1. Building an inclusive culture starts with senior leadership support and legitimate actions. Senior leadership needs to support and clarify the importance of diversity explicitly.

  2. Improving psychological safety can help people feel they can be open.

  3. Pay equity is critical; otherwise, key talent will figure it out quickly and move elsewhere where their contribution is valued.

  4. Having the right metrics is vital because you are what you measure.

  5. Being careful about the masculine culture that can prevail, particularly in the field. Recognizing the risk of leadership prototypes, more rigid norms, and increased work interruption bias is essential.

  6. Diversity of background can drive innovation, and empirical research supports it. According to the Australian Institute of Corporate Directors, innovation can increase by 20% by drawing on the experiences and perspectives of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

  7. Culture is difficult to change but vital to get right. Focusing on a consistent culture between corporate HQ and the field wherever possible helps. An EY US study shows that 76% of millennial respondents said they would leave their employer if DEI initiatives were not offered at the company.

  8. Evaluating and improving policies and procedures to ensure the proper guidance is in place, including safety, family-friendly policies, hiring practices, diverse practices in development, asking who this policy serves and penalizes and benchmarking policies outside the sector.

  9. Supporting professional development and enabling continuous learning for everyone moves collective knowledge. Organizations need to continue learning, challenging, and moving through the discomfort.

  10. Not forgetting small behaviours that can significantly impact when you combine them. A recent Harvard Business Review article said that an organizational culture that ingrains DEI across its functions and workforce while creating a sense of belonging has also been found to increase employee productivity and performance by 56%.

Organizations, leaders and individuals are at different stages of the DEI journey and are still figuring out how to incorporate DEI into their operations effectively. As organizations work to establish effective DEI measures in the workplace, many essential questions must be considered. Some of these include:

  • What is the compelling reason and goal for implementing DEI in the organization, and how can it become everyone’s collective mission?

  • How does DEI align with and support the organization’s strategy and divisional plans?

  • How can the organization regularly evaluate and measure progress in DEI and align it with key performance metrics?

  • How can the organization effectively engage employees and encourage their participation in DEI policies and practices?

  • How are the organization’s current structure and culture set up to support DEI initiatives?

  • Which existing activities are successful, unsuccessful or not apparent?

  • What are the current competencies of the organization’s leaders in DEI, and what upskilling is necessary to better advocate for DEI?

  • What barriers exist to implementing DEI, and how can they be addressed?

  • What can the energy and resources industry learn from other sectors’ successes?

Implementing robust DEI policies and practices can significantly benefit organizations, qualitatively and quantitatively. Strong DEI can help an organization excel and achieve outstanding results rather than meet expectations. It can lead to a more loyal, empowered and growth-oriented workforce rather than one that is complacent and disengaged. Additionally, it can support improved retention, reduced turnover, and foster innovation and market leadership rather than a conservative and predictable approach. In the energy and resources industry, DEI is not just desirable but necessary to stand out and be seen as a leader in the field.

Starting small and building momentum is critical and inclusive environments can benefit us all. As Rachael said, “diversity is a fact, and inclusion is an act.” Thank you, Rachael, for sharing your ideas and experiences with Sonika, myself, and the webcast participants.

Authored by Dr. Lance Mortlock (EY Canada Managing Partner, Energy & Haskayne School of Business Adjunct Associate Professor).


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