2018 is shaping up to be a red-letter year for achieving a more diverse and equitable workforce in the solar space. On the industry level, there’s a growing drumbeat of studies, articles, and resources designed to educate and provide guidance. On the company level, there is a new standard of doing business with more and more companies making public statements and commitments to diversity and parity in their workforces and pay. What are the levers of change?
A Call to Action
Over a year ago, The Solar Foundation’s Diversity Study revealed a troubling lack of diversity in the solar industry. For instance, 52 percent of white respondents felt “very satisfied” with their wage, compared to the 8 percent of African-Americans with the same response. Men were found to be “significantly more likely” to fall into the highest wage range compared to women, who make up only 28 percent of the solar workforce.
The report served as a much-needed wake-up call. In response, there have been a growing number of calls from within the energy industry to establish, document, and measure best practices in recruitment, interviewing, hiring, and culture to achieve a more diverse, higher-performing workforce. As emphasized by GTM, to those working in the industry, solar energy represents a part of the forward thinking of the future. Without a diverse workforce filled with different backgrounds and perspectives, however, many are asking how solar companies can truly think forward at all.
Resources to Lead
In the past year, solar non-profits and associations have significantly expanded efforts to guide and encourage change in the industry, as well as launch new initiatives to begin wide-sweeping change. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the industry’s trade association, released a Diversity Best Practices Guide, a tool for companies to use to not only increase diversity in their workforce but make sure they are successful by incorporating a proven framework. The guide includes a list of organizations dedicated to a more diverse industry. Groups named in the guide, such as Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy have long advocated for diversity in the solar space, and continue to provide leadership in achieving a more inclusive workforce.
Walking the Talk
Many solar companies, including Sol Systems, have begun efforts internally and externally to reshape company and industry culture to achieve a strong diversified workforce and more robust industry.
This year, Sol Systems formed a diversity council and released its first corporate diversity statement. Currently, the council is finalizing goals and company-wide initiatives that support Sol Systems in continuously strengthening its culture. As a starting point to lay a strong foundation beyond the company’s diversity statement, the council has scheduled unconscious bias training for all employees in October, with other programs to follow.
We believe the coming months and year will see a tipping point within the industry whereby the majority of companies will establish and share their diversity commitments and initiatives. But real progress will require bold and vocal leadership industry-wide. It’s up to us as an industry to walk the talk, because only then can we run.
This is an excerpt from the September 2018 edition of The SOL SOURCE, a monthly electronic newsletter analyzing the latest trends in renewable energy based on our unique position in the solar industry. To receive future editions of the journal, please subscribe.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.
Over the last ten years, Sol Systems has delivered 700 MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.