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What it Takes to #EmbraceEquity in the Energy Industry

When companies implement equitable practices, it’s a win for all.

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PassiveLogic at the Women Tech Council 2022 Women Tech Awards

As autonomous buildings technologists, our industry is part of the broader energy industry. Buildings consume 41% of the world’s energy resources, and autonomous buildings reduce that consumption by on average 30% — huge impact on that consumption. I’ve been engaged in a deep dive into the energy sector’s labor market and a few important items stand out.

According to the IEA, women account for only 22% of the traditional energy sector workforce. For management levels, the numbers are lower. Even more alarming, wages for female employees within this sector are almost 20% lower than their male counterparts, and this gap persists even when factors like skills, education, and experience are normalized — indicating that the gap may have more to do with gender than it does expertise (OECD LinkEED project).

Our mission is clear: implement practices for equitable action to launch our industry forward.

These findings communicate a clear message, articulated by the International Energy Agency in their latest report on gender and energy: “There is an urgency for countries to attract and retain a diverse workforce in the energy sector to ensure innovation and the inclusive perspectives needed to successfully navigate the low‑carbon energy transition.” In other words, gender equity is not just a “nice to have,” adding to the endless list of trending workplace priorities crowd-sourced by folks not in the trenches — but is an urgent “must-have,” necessary to achieve our ambitious and necessary goals for the industry. We must incorporate more equitable practices in our workplaces to fully leverage the skills, expertise, and innovations from the entire workforce.

Equity in the Energy Sector

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (March 8) is #EmbraceEquity. The aim of this theme is to highlight why equal opportunities are not enough for sustained change, but we must commit to equitable action to foster the inclusion and belonging that will define the global change we seek.

What does equitable action really mean? In the context of gender, equity is the practice of being fair to women and men so that they have a level playing field with equal access to opportunities, taking into account the different starting point of different identity groups. To create this level playing field, it is necessary to implement practices, strategies, and policies to both remove negative bias based on identity, and correct with positive bias. Our objective is that by practicing equitable action, equity ultimately leads to equality across gender.

Our mission is clear: implement practices for equitable action to launch our industry forward. One of the more striking findings of the OECD LinkEED project is women are more likely than men to leave the energy sector altogether. This diaspora is a lagging indicator of the unequal distribution by gender in lower-paying (non-leadership) roles and lower-paying firms. These combined factors exacerbate the gender wage gap as men advance in their careers within the sector, while women stay behind in more junior roles. Also from the IEA report: “Men advance in their careers by moving to more productive and high-wage firms within the sector, while women tend to stay behind, increasing the gender wage gap between firms with age.” The entire industry suffers as women — who make up 40% of the talent pool — leave the energy sector in droves.

This finding highlights the importance of retaining the women that already make up our workforce in the energy (and building automation) industry. At PassiveLogic our practice of nurturing existing talent has borne meaningful fruit. Our tailored mentorships and flat organizational structure give early-career employees an opportunity to work closely with executives who encourage them to develop their skills. We have a number of day-to-day operational practices that encourage meritocratic review of new ideas, and encourage contributions of junior team members. As a result, 5 out of 13 of our technical leads started off at PassiveLogic as entry-level engineers, and of those 5 technical leads who rose to their position from entry-level, two of them are women. Today, these incredible women run their own technical teams that contribute directly to the company’s innovation.

How Equity Transforms Businesses

As we deliberately and consistently incorporate practices to create a more equitable workplace, we cannot ignore that pay equity is essential to leveling the playing field. At PassiveLogic, our Equitable Salary Calculator was developed as a tool to operationalize our core principles of equity and sustainability. We generate every employment offer and salary increase using the Equitable Salary Calculator. It considers objective inputs like experience, expertise, education, technical challenge score (if applicable), and location-based cost of living as the only parameters to ensure equitable compensation across gender, age, ethnicity, employment gaps, and other identity factors. This ensures variations in employeepay are accounted for solely based on merit.

This equitable pay practice has benefitted the company in many ways. Last year, we nearly doubled the number of women in our company, including doubling the number of women in technical roles. We were pleased to announce that we increased the number of women in leadership at our company from 1 to 4, making up a quarter of our greater leadership team, creating additional opportunities for female mentorship. It is no understatement that we mean it when we say we want to give opportunities to women. I am proud of the growth we have been able to achieve by recruiting more women and mentoring our female employees so they can grow in their careers, and contribute to the company’s success.

Celebrating the Wins

Adopting a holistic view of the journey to #EmbraceEquity involves celebrating our progress and recognizing the benefits that equity can bring to the industry.

Diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets, and are 120% more likely to hit financial goals (Fundara by NerdWallet). It is clear that diversity isn’t just necessary to build a psychologically safe and equitable environment for employees, but can provide an array of opportunities for the company itself.

Last year, I was humbled to receive the Transformation Leadership Award during the 2022 Women Tech Awards. This award is in an indicator that PassiveLogic’s efforts towards building an equitable workforce are valued by the larger tech community. Looking back on this past year where we have experienced a growth from 61 to 100+ employees, we can attribute many of our technological achievements to our increasingly diverse workforce that provides us new perspectives and a greater pool of knowledge from which to draw.

At PassiveLogic, we’re passionate about data-driven continuous improvement practices. This approach has led to creating inclusive pathways for women and diverse candidates, which has in turn prepared us to more effectively achieve a low-carbon energy transition.

If you’re interested in disrupting the world of automation with the first fully autonomous platform for buildings, check out our job openings here: https://passivelogic.com/careers/

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