The gender gap for women in corporate America, especially in the leadership ranks, lags behind even the most progressive companies’ ambitions. This remains true despite multiple studies that show companies with more gender-diverse workforces attract better talent and achieve higher financial performance. TerraPower recently signed on to the Equal by 30 campaign to help change this narrative and make progress in the clean energy sector.
The campaign requires signatories to commit to “equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities” for women in clean energy by 2030. To offer context for this challenge, women only represent 23% of the energy workforce and less than 20% of executives.
McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study reveals that companies throughout the corporate world are showing slow progress in closing the gap. It is a confounding trendline considering the same study reveals that profit and share performance can be as much as 50% higher when women are well represented as executives.
Changing this equation will require both commitment and accountability for the clean energy sector. A new reporting framework for the Equal by 30 campaign seeks to ensure companies follow through on commitments. TerraPower and other clean energy leaders have agreed to monitor progress annually on workforce composition, gender-specific barriers to inclusion and advancement, and recruiting efforts to attract female professionals.
One way the company is addressing existing gender discrimination is through unconscious bias and microinequities training. The Sage Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender describes this type of discrimination as small events that are hard to prove, can be covert, are often unintentional and occur wherever people are perceived to be different.
The book’s microinequity research originated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and gives a range of examples to consider. For instance, microinequities exist when colleagues presume specific tasks will be assigned based solely on gender, make unfounded assumptions about intellect using stereotypes for men and women, or allocate superior facilities, offices or titles to men, reinforcing male authority.
This research states that these microinequity and unconscious bias events have a cumulative effect that limits inclusion and harms future efforts to hire a more diverse workforce. TerraPower has conducted regular diversity training for employees since 2014. For the past two years, it has included unconscious bias and microinequity requirements in the curriculum.
The company is also taking other steps to address the gender gap, including compensation reviews to avoid pay inequity in salaries. In addition, the company is working to evolve its alternative work arrangement policy, creating greater flexibility.
The McKinsey study suggests that “One in three mothers have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers because of COVID-19.” A majority of these working mothers point to childcare responsibilities as a driving factor. Becoming a more flexible workplace will enable companies to retain these professionals and avoid a further gender drain from the workforce.
More than 150 signatories globally have committed to being “Equal by 30.” The clean energy sector often considers itself an entrepreneurial hotbed for creativity as its members search for future solutions that benefit the greater good. The imperative to close the gender gap should naturally align with all organizations seeking a better tomorrow.