In anticipation of our interview with Michelle Branigan, Chief Executive Officer of Electricity Human Resources Canada, this week’s blog post takes a preliminary look at the Leadership Accord for Gender Diversity, its genesis, purpose and the effect it is having on the industry.
The Leadership Accord for Gender Diversity (“the Accord”) was launched by Electricity Human Resources Canada (“EHRC”) in March 2017 and is “a public commitment by employers, educators, unions and governments to promote the values of diversity, equality and inclusion throughout their work.” In announcing the Accord, Michelle Branigan, the CEO of EHRC, noted that women still represent only 25 percent of the electricity workforce, with that number plummeting to 5 percent in the trades. In addition, less than 13 percent of practicing licensed engineers are women. While the percentage of women in the industry continues to rise, Ms. Branigan noted that it still sits below the Canadian average. Diversity is known to fuel innovation within companies and the lack of female presence creates a pressing issue for the electricity industry.
EHRC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the workforce in the electricity industry is “skilled, safety-focused, diverse and productive.” The organization was founded in 2005 as the Electricity Sector Council, with the name change and new mandate occurring in 2012. EHRC’s mandate includes researching about human resources, promoting employment opportunities and developing partnerships with the goal of helping the electricity industry improve the quality of service to all Canadians. In 2017, EHRC launched the Connected Women Mentorship Program. It was created after EHRC stakeholders emphasized the significant role mentors play in attracting and retaining female employees. The Accord was born out of Connected Women to address the continuing needs of the female workforce.
There are two ways for organizations to participate in the Accord: as a signatory or as an advocate. Signatories sign the commitment to gender diversity within their organization, while advocates represent the organizations who have signed the commitments. The call to action includes three steps:
(1) a declaration of commitment from the organization;
(2) implementation and action through a variety of initiatives; and
(3) a review at the two-year mark.
In the first step, signatories sign a “certificate of commitment and declaration,” which begins the implementation and benchmarking of various initiatives. The Accord emphasizes the importance of the CEO signing this certificate as it demonstrates the value placed on diversity within the organization. Advocates declare their commitment at this stage to engaging their networks about the Accord.
In the second step, signatories ensure initiatives are implemented. Examples of initiatives may include ensuring at least two qualified women are shortlisted for each position during the hiring process, engagement with organizations that promote women in technology or providing female staff with development opportunities. Advocates engage in outreach, promotion and communications with their networks about the Accord, encouraging them to become official signatories.
By the third step, the review stage, EHRC will review the organization’s progress to help signatories analyze the effectiveness of their diversity practices and plan necessary strategic changes.
Many organizations have signed on since the founding of the Accord from a range of industries, including electricity generators, distributors, unions, colleges and industry associations.