Celebrating Pride and Empowering Employees to Share Their Voice
Monday, Jun 07 2021
Each June we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and the many contributions its members make to our nation’s culture and economy. Pride events are a celebration of the rights and acceptance the LGBTQ+ community has earned, as well as an important reminder of the ongoing challenges the community still faces.
There are many steps companies and organizations in the solar industry can take to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. One way is to encourage employees to voice their opinions and empower them to form their own affinity groups, known as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
An ERG is an employee-led, self-directed, voluntary group that enables its members to share common experiences and network with each other. ERGs contribute to a more inclusive work environment because they promote community and create opportunities for workplace ideas and solutions, mentoring, and career development.
Management-led groups, like diversity councils and committees, can complement ERGs and help to reinforce inclusivity within an organization. Diversity committees don’t usually cover all issues faced by underrepresented groups, so ERGs can provide a safe space for these communities to network and discuss their specific challenges. Companies can show support for ERGs by sponsoring or endorsing them. This can include formally recognizing them as a workplace group, providing a space to meet, providing a budget, and/or providing other resources or ways to support their activities.
In 2020, Sunrun, one of the largest residential solar and storage installers in the United States and a valued SEIA member, formed six ERGs that include approximately 850 employees as of December 31, 2020. The groups include Sunrun’s Asian+, Black+, Latinx+, Pride+, Veterans and Women’s ERGs. These ERGs promote connection among their employees and assist with the development and facilitation of programming that supports personal and professional development while also supporting the company’s objectives.
Sunrun’s Pride+ ERG led a career showcase that helped to highlight opportunities for internal career movement. The group is sponsoring the 2021 Denver Pride Parade and is planning to host “Candid Conversations” to help spark meaningful conversations for Sunrun employees.
Laurie Hanover, Vice President, Internal Audit at Sunrun is the current Chair of the company’s Pride+ ERG. She sees close alignment between ERGs and Sunrun’s mission.
“At Sunrun, we believe that empowering people and valuing their differences is essential for our mission to create a planet run by the sun,” Hanover explained. “Our Sunrun Pride+ Employee Resource Group helps us foster an inclusive culture for everyone, while positioning Sunrun as an Employer of Choice attracting talented members of the LGBTQ+ community and contributing to their advancement and retention. Serving as the Pride+ ERG Chair has been an important part of my growth as a leader at Sunrun and underlines how grateful I am to be part of such an inclusive culture.”
To help employees create their own ERG, SEIA created two new resources. The Employee Resource Group Overview & Checklist contains information about what ERGs do and do not do, provides guidance on how to align an ERG with company objectives, and checklist of the steps an employee should follow to earn formal recognition of the new ERG. The Employee Resource Group Charter Template provides companies with model language they can use to formally recognize ERGs within their organizations and codify roles, responsibilities, objectives, key performance indicators, and additional expectations for the group.
ERGs are not limited to LGBTQ+ groups, but they can provide a much-needed forum for LGBTQ+ community members in the solar industry.
While Pride Month events may look different this year due to COVID, the LGBTQ+ community will also be able to celebrate at Solar Power International (SPI) 2021. SEIA is planning to host its second LGBTQ+ reception at SPI 2021 in New Orleans and invites the LGBTQ+ community to attend.
Becky Long, senior program manager at SEIA, recently joined BayWa r.e.’s Solar Tech Talk to discuss SEIA’s diversity initiatives, what it’s like working as an LGBTQ+ member in the solar industry, and how we can support the growing LGTBQ+ community in the solar industry.
The solar industry welcomes and values its LGBTQ+ members. SEIA looks forward to creating more opportunities for the Solar Pride community to connect, and invites you to fill out this form if you want to join this growing community.