Diversity in Energy Op-ed: Investing in D&I is Investing in the Future

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I recently read in a survey published by Momentive that 47% of C-suite executives believe diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are a distraction from their company’s real work, and I was astounded.

I hope this finding isn’t an accurate reflection of what executives think. I believed corporate leaders understood the business value of a diverse team. The study left me wondering whether I have been naïve or blind to reality. Do we have an even tougher job than we realize to show the business imperative of an inclusive culture?

While we know there is considerable work ahead to achieve meaningful change, the study shines a light on the need to continue educating by the numbers. Not only is this the right thing to do, but diverse companies perform better in an array of business measures. With the growing globalization of the economy and the energy industry, continuing to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) throughout the energy services and technology sector is an opportunity to accelerate the growth and innovation we’ll need to meet rising energy demands and reduce emissions.

The Energy Workforce & Technology Council has partnered with Accenture and recently published a study that found that the percentage of women in the sector rose from 16% in 2018 to nearly 20% in 2021 despite widespread workforce disruptions caused by the pandemic. The report also set a benchmark of 25% for racial and ethnic groups employed in the sector. Improving gender diversity against the backdrop of a global pandemic is encouraging, but the study shows we must continue making progress to create the kind of inclusive workforce the sector will need.

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“The greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.” — Molly Determan

While C-suite executives may consider D&I a distraction, research continues to show companies benefit from establishing an inclusive leadership team and workforce. Businesses with inclusive cultures report significant increases in creativity, innovation, openness and profitability. This is because when we work with people who are different, we’re exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking. This opens the door to questions about why we do things in certain ways and break out of the “this is how we’ve always done it” rut.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., companies with gender diversity on their executive team were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability and value creation. Companies with ethnic diversity in the C-suite were 36% more likely to have above-average profits. The greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.

With younger people placing greater value on a culture of diversity, it is mission critical for services and technology companies seeking to recruit the next generation of talent. The Momentive survey found that two-thirds of workers under age 45 think D&I initiatives are an important factor in the company’s ability to drive success.

Tracking, evaluating and identifying

Working through the Energy Workforce & Technology Council, energy services and technology companies are taking concrete steps to improve performance in this area. The 2018 and 2021 studies demonstrate the value of giving visibility to D&I metrics. This year’s update allowed the sector to track metrics, evaluate what is working and identify tangible ways to improve.

Companies active with the council have access to training opportunities and resources. The council serves as a repository of best practices for companies to increase diversity, including how to best use employee resource groups and providing sponsorship program models. The council is also brokering partnerships to increase diversity in talent and recruitment pipelines.

The Energy Workforce & Technology Council’s Inclusion & Diversity Engagement Committee and COO Molly Determan hosted a best-practice sharing session where participants in the Inclusion & Diversity Business Champion program could engage in conversations with industry peers about challenges and solutions in establishing and maintaining D&I cultures within their companies. Representatives from Baker Hughes, Caterpillar Inc., DistributionNOW, Exterran, Halliburton, NOV Inc., Piper Sandler, Schlumberger, TechnipFMC and Vallourec participated in the virtual meeting. (Source: Energy Workforce & Technology Council)

Another essential component available to companies through the council is networking opportunities to share experiences and strategies from peers. This process can help companies identify blind spots, streamline efforts and lead to meaningful change. As each company advances, the sector improves as a whole, and the recruiting and retention process enters a cycle of progress leading to greater progress.

The Energy Workforce & Technology Council shared its study findings in mid-September 2021 at its annual meeting—an event attended by the C-suite executives of the council’s member companies. The council’s Inclusion & Diversity Committee took to the podium to issue a challenge. Oceaneering President and CEO Rod Larson shared his experiences and encouraged other CEOs to lead by example, establish tangible goals to turn ambitions into results, invest in the work of D&I and reframe the organizational culture.

Call to action

While I initially felt dismayed by Momentive’s survey findings, I’d like to continue the call to action. We clearly have more educating to do and we are equipped to do it. This is not a project with a clear beginning and end. It’s learning from mistakes and successes and engaging in the process of continuous improvement.

It is essential that the energy services sector engage in this effort. Working together, we can build an inclusive culture that will contribute to the bottom line and help recruit the diverse new talent we need to thrive in the future.

About the author: Molly Determan is the COO of the Energy Workforce & Technology Council.