By Tony Khing
Corporate America has a major role in establishing behaviors everyone can follow, especially when it comes to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.
This perspective was discussed by three new members of PG&E’s Board of Directors at a recent virtual meeting open to all PG&E coworkers to celebrate Black History Month and the 40 anniversary of the company’s Black Employee Resource Group.
During the 60-minute event entitled “Journeys of Excellence,” the board members described three ways companies can set standards for serving customers and being authentic.
Be a role model
“It’s incumbent on companies to model behavior they wish society to have,” said Benjamin F. Wilson, PG&E board member and chairman of Beveridge & Diamond PC, a national law firm.
Benjamin F. Wilson
Wilson said the right behavior starts at the hiring stage. “Companies are obligated to their shareholders to place the best possible team on the field,” he said. “Some of those best people are going to be diverse and African American. When you put the best team possible on the field, you have a chance of winning.”
According to Wilson, the obligation also goes beyond bringing in the best people. “How the company presents itself, how it invests in the community and in the customers matters,” he said.
Practice inclusion throughout the company—and your customer base
When board member Dean L. Seavers was president and executive director of National Grid, he made a point of wanting to understand what customers were thinking. “That ultimately led me to our employees,” he said. “We were a big employer across three states. Our employees were a true microcosm of the broader population.”
Dean L. Seavers
Seavers said one lesson learned was not to leave anyone behind. “We kept knocking down hurdles that prevented employees from bringing their whole selves, their real selves, to work,” he said.
Seavers added that the act of respecting needs and concerns must extend to all customers “from the ultrarich to the low-income ones. It’s going to require inclusive action and real introspection by companies and the individuals who run them if they want to make progress.”
Encourage your workforce to stand up for themselves
Long before board member Dara J. Treseder became Peloton’s senior vice president and head of global marketing and communications, she was an intern for a company. During her internship, Treseder came up with an idea and shared it with a colleague, who told her to continue working on it and that she could present it at the end of her internship.
Treseder was shocked and angered when she witnessed this colleague presenting her work to her boss and a room full of leaders and employees—without giving her credit.
Dara J. Treseder
“We need to stand up for ourselves,” Treseder said. “We need to take up space and show up. We need to be confident in what we have to offer. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you get other people to believe in you?”
The bottom line? In order to bring equity and inclusion to the forefront, the time to act is now.
“The world is watching,” said Wilson. “There has to be a sense of urgency. The government may issue an edict, but at some point, it’s Corporate America that has to go forward with it.”
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