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Experts share how to fix energy industry’s diversity problem


  • Several energy companies have responded to the death of George Floyd by circulating memos, publishing statements, and making donations. 
  • Those words are helpful, but they should be followed by meaningful action, experts say. 
  • A new organization called the Energy Diversity and Inclusion Council is launching on June 15. It seeks to be the premier D&I resource for the industry. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Energy companies were among the cadre of corporations that sent memos to their staff and published statements this week in the wake of George Floyd’s death last Monday. 

“I find the events deeply upsetting, heartbreaking, and unacceptable,” Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell’s North American operations, said in an email to her employees reviewed by Business Insider. 

Statements like these are helpful, said Dennis Kennedy, founder of the National Diversity Council, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace.

But the industry at large — long known for its limited representation of women and black Americans — still has a long way to go in its D&I efforts, he said. Some companies are further along than others, he added, but in general energy companies should focus on increasing community engagement and allocating more resources to D&I. 

About 8% of the energy industry workforce is black, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Energy Futures Initiative, while women make up between 23% and 32%. And a 2017 report from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that black oil and gas workers earned 23% less than white workers in comparable roles. 

There’s also an important history to consider: Pollution from the oil and gas industry has disproportionately impacted black Americans

“The energy industry is really challenged around diversity and inclusion,” said Kennedy. “That’s unfortunate, but these organizations now have an opportunity to be inclusive.” 

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Kennedy is working on a new effort that could help. 

On June 15, he’s launching a new organization called the Energy Diversity and Inclusion Council, which will provide training sessions and other consulting services for energy companies, largely in the oil and gas sector, around D&I. 

“We seek to be the premier resource for D&I for the energy sector,” he said. 

Initially, the council will operate under the auspices of the National Diversity Council, he said, but once the board is in place, the organization will become an independent nonprofit.

Do you have a tip or story to share about diversity and inclusion in the energy industry? Reach out to energy@businessinsider.com

Lynn Good Duke Energy

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good is among the leaders who sent a note to her employees.

Duke Energy


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2020-06-05 21:29:00

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