I recently had the incredible honor of accepting the Midwest Energy Association's first-ever Excellence in Women’s Development Award on behalf of NiSource. This award was created to recognize a company that shows great leadership and commitment to diversity and inclusion in the utility industry. While it is nice to be recognized, I'm more excited about being provided with a platform to drive our entire industry forward in this space.
Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) has been an important focus at NiSource for several years and continues to be a fundamental component of our journey to premier. We work hard to create an environment where each employee has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. We know that our success truly depends on being open to new ways of thinking that can make us a better community partner and a stronger company.
Bridging the gap
In 2011 we recognized that females were underrepresented in our senior leadership ranks at NiSource. We’ve since built and implemented a development program focused on providing the next generation of high potential female employees with the knowledge, resources and support needed to bridge that gap.
And, we engaged men in the conversation.
The Building the NextGen, Women in Leadership program consisted of a series of programs created to help us build a culture in which women could succeed and advance, including:
- A mentoring program
- An annual Women in Leadership Summit
- Regional meetings held throughout our footprint that include women in field locations
- Additional focused training
We also launched an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on women called Developing and Advancing Women at NiSource (DAWN).
The Building the NextGen, Women in Leadership program was successful; many participants have attributed their continued growth to their involvement in the program.
Reaching wider and deeper
Since then, we built on that success and expanded our I&D efforts to an even broader group of employees at NiSource. We now offer opportunities at all levels of the organization to strategically accelerate the development of all of our diverse talent.
Since 2015 our executive team has worked hard to establish a clear and succinct strategy based on three simple aspirations:
- Having a workforce that represents the diversity of the communities we serve,
- Cultivating a culture of inclusion that values and leverages our differences and commonalities, and
- Creating transparent processes for talent management.
Consistent with our commitment to advancing inclusion and diversity in the workplace, our CEO, Joe Hamrock, in June joined more than 150 business leaders in signing the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge – which outlines a specific set of actions companies will take to cultivate an environment where all ideas are welcomed and employees feel comfortable and empowered to discuss diversity and inclusion.
Leading for an inclusive culture
Our strategy around I&D continues to evolve.
We know that to be successful, we need all leaders to take responsibility for creating an inclusive culture, so we’re focusing on inclusive leadership and challenging all our leaders to better leverage our diverse talent.
In March, more than 400 NiSource leaders attended our second annual Diversity in Leadership Summit focused on equipping our leaders to create an inclusive environment and address our unconscious biases. The value of this event was not just in the development our leaders received but in the message to all of our employees.
While we have the support of our top leaders, I&D efforts are really driven by our passionate employees. Throughout all levels of the organization, there are a large number of local inclusion and diversity efforts for employees to become involved in, as well as corporate-wide initiatives such as our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
Open to all employees, our ERGs:
- Assist us in recruiting, retaining and accelerating the development of our employees
- Participate in community service efforts that impact our customers and communities
- Serve as a collaborative voice around shared issues and concerns
- Broaden understanding and awareness of inclusion, diversity and cultural competence
There are seven ERGs at NiSource each of which is focused on a unique spectrum of employee populations, and we continue to see growth. I’m proud to serve as executive sponsor of our newest ERG – NiPRIDE – which employees mobilized to attract talented LGBTQ individuals to our team, and to retain, develop and otherwise support LGBTQ employees and their allies.
The journey continues
As we continue to develop our teams with great people, great attitudes and diverse backgrounds, experiences and cultures, we see the value that inclusion and diversity is bringing to our organization. I&D is not a final destination that we’ll eventually reach, but rather a journey. There will be bumps in the road, but with every bump comes learning that ultimately translates into moving the culture of our organization – and of our industry – forward.