By 2020, nearly half the workforce will be female and non-white. Are utilities ready?
Utilities, like other businesses, understand that-moral and ethical imperatives aside-a diverse workforce makes their businesses stronger. But at a recent transmission conference in Washington, D.C., the 50-or-so attendees were mostly male (two of the four women in the room were conference organizers), mostly white (two blacks and three or four Asians), and mostly older (half had gray hair).
The United States workforce population doesn't look much like that group (see Figure 1, p. 35). But by and large, utilities' workforces look more like that group than not. That doesn't bode well for the industry, which must find a way to tap into diverse segments of the labor force-or face an impending labor crisis.
Diversity and the Bottom Line
In today's business climate, few if any investor-owned utilities lack a diversity program. Diversity programs of one variety or another have been around for 20 years.
While such programs have often been dismissed as another flavor-of-the-month initiative, utilities are starting to see the real benefits to having diverse leaders and workforces.
Case in point: Renae Conley, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana. She took the reins in mid-2000. At that time, J.D. Power and Associates ranked the company in the second or third quartile of all utilities in four out of five performance metrics: power quality and reliability, company image, price and value, billing and payment, and customer service. By July 2002, J.D. Power ranked Entergy Louisiana in the top quartile in four of the five categories.
While Conley is too modest to credit herself for these changes, she believes a diverse workforce helped the company improve. "I definitely believe we are a better company because of diversity, and all the different backgrounds we have in our company," she says.