Pride in Energy’s Chair and our Head of Communications, Josh Atkins, answers some unresolved questions from the Inclusion, Equality and Diversity conference
Just over a month ago Energy UK held their second Inclusion, Equality and Diversity conference – two days of insights and experience that I was delighted to contribute to as the founder and chair of Pride in Energy.
I set Pride in Energy up in 2017 to address LGBTQ+ issues in the energy industry as, despite representing 619,000 jobs, five percent of GDP and over two percent of all jobs in the UK, the energy industry had fallen behind other equivalent industries in key indices such as the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index where, at the time, there wasn’t a single energy company.
Since then and with the support of our committee and members, we’ve marched at Pride in London twice, held a string of events including one sponsored by Accenture where Lord Browne talked about his time at the helm of BP (including when he was outed by the tabloid press) and provided advice and guidance to a number of companies who are working towards a shared goal.
We also recently published the results of our first annual survey where 1/3 of respondents said they had witnessed or experienced LGBTQ+ discrimination within the past five years. This figure significantly dropped to whether they had witnessed it within the past year, possibly a sign of the progressive actions we’re seeing across the energy industry.
The Inclusion, Equality and Diversity conference itself is a sign of this progress; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to respond to all of the questions we had so wanted to take the opportunity of the start of pride month to answer them.
At the launch of Pride in Energy in Feb 2020, you suggested using privilege as a tool to promote diversity. How can we all use our privilege (position, experience etc) to influence the industry to change?
First, you need to identify what that privilege is. In 2017 I recognised that whilst I didn’t have the expertise in diversity and inclusion, I did work for Energy UK at the time, and at a trade association you have an unparalleled ability to convene other organisations. So, we did; bringing together the industry, government, the third sector and consultancies. Otherwise, it might be facilities that your organisation has to host an event, well used communications platforms, or useful connections. Also, you might have advocates that you can give a platform to, or indeed have a platform of you own which you can leverage.
I saw an energy company focusing on the negative 20% rather than the positive 80% figure in some of the LGBT+ results. The way we speak about survey results is important as we want to attract diversity rather than putting minority groups off, while remaining balanced and factual about survey results.
For a lot of companies, that 20% will be far too high, but I agree there is a risk of focussing on the negative rather than the positive. I think it’s important for people joining the industry to do so as well equipped and informed as they can be before joining or moving company and, in our case, would recognise the 80% is an overwhelmingly positive figure that puts the energy industry on the same level as other sectors often views as more progressive.
Do you have tips for people with hidden protected characteristics can do to become better visible role models or talk about their characteristic? Sometimes it's hard to know when to bring it up.
I am by no means an expert, but from my own experience I would have to say it’s as simple as talking about it. Whatever your platform is, use it as much as you can. Sometimes that’s being a sounding-board for those that may have questions or need advice. You can also choose how you want to speak about it; whether private or public, in person or in writing.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.