6 minute read 8 Mar 2019
Businesswoman gesturing discussing colleagues

Why there can be no transformation without inclusion

By

Cyntressa Dickey

EY Americas People Advisory Services – Energy Leader

Transformation advisor to leading energy and other Fortune 500 companies. Passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity. Chemical engineer. Committed to fitness and Atlanta Bootcamp.

6 minute read 8 Mar 2019

Show resources

Utilities must rethink their approach to diversity, and Belinda Watton is doing her part to enact change.

Incremental actions and one-off appointments aren’t enough to make a real difference. Instead, those companies that are making real progress in improving gender diversity are embedding principles and actions into every aspect of both daily operations and big-picture strategy.

It’s an approach espoused by Belinda Watton, Energy Queensland’s Chief Transformation Officer — a role she describes as bringing together the strategic and operational sides of the business to deliver a “people-centric transformation” that aims to achieve a long-term vision.

“Diversity of all kinds is critical,” says Watton, “if transformation is to go beyond delivering commercial success to create a truly people-centered utility. I approach diversity from a perspective beyond the obvious. My gender is the same as 50% of the population so I’ve got as much in common as I have differences. True diversity for me goes beyond gender to understand that it’s my idiosyncrasies that make me different, it’s my experience, it’s my values, it’s the unique way that I think.”

Encouraging diverse perspectives means rethinking old processes

Energy Queensland intentionally seeks out these diverse perspectives on issues, says Watton. “We’re not looking for validation,” she says, while underscoring that the benefits are clear. “When diverse people work together, they bring different perspectives, make fewer presumptions, ask more questions and stay with the problem longer. And what we’ve seen — and what the research tells us — is that they produce better results.

“Diversity breeds success. We strongly believe that diverse teams are capable of outperforming teams that aren’t diverse — and can accelerate the transformation of the business.”

Creating an environment where diversity is actively embraced requires rethinking old processes, says Watton. “We structure meetings to draw out contributions from everyone in the room. This means considering the different ways people engage. Individuals may be introverted or extroverted, want information before the meeting or prefer to come back with thoughts after the meeting. And we ask ourselves, ‘Am I inquiring out of genuine curiosity or to advocate my own position?’ It’s important we reframe what we’re trying to achieve to ensure we gather different perspectives.”

Diversity breeds success. We strongly believe that diverse teams are capable of outperforming teams that aren’t diverse — and can accelerate the transformation of the business.
Belinda Watton
Chief Transformation Officer, Energy Queensland

Build a stronger pipeline of female leaders

Watton says the approach is resulting in a stronger pipeline of potential female leaders. “We can see the results of working on our gender bias, our stereotypes and assumptions around the work that people can and can’t do.”

In one example, Energy Queensland reviewed potential bias in its apprentice application process to increase the percentage of females in its annual intake from 10% to 22% in just 12 months. “We’d traditionally shortlisted using standardized online testing, only moving forward with candidates who exceeded a particular score. But we now know that test results don’t always get you the best candidate for the role – nor are they predictors of success. We interrogated the results to ensure that we’re getting both the right level of capability while representing diversity.”

Energy Queensland is also taking steps to improve retention of women throughout their career cycle. “We’re engaging with our women in the field to understand their experiences and feedback about what we need to do differently to ensure these individuals are able to contribute equally.”

Making a real difference to diversity must come from the top, says Watton. “If you don’t have a leadership mindset that recognizes the importance of supporting people to realize their potential in a whole range of different ways, they will never be as effective. Diversity is a given. Inclusion is a choice.” She emphasizes the importance of both men and women in driving the diversity agenda. “Strong male advocates are more effective in helping others from similar demographics overcome their own bias.”

Diversity is a given. Inclusion is a choice.
Belinda Watton
Chief Transformation Officer, Energy Queensland

Mentors can help overcome the internal critic

Both male and female mentors have been instrumental in Watton’s own success. “Mentors have helped me overcome that internal critic that might otherwise have held me back, and they’ve facilitated relationships more broadly in the organization. “For example, regardless of capability, the opportunity to be on the Board at Energy Skills Queensland, would without question, not have been possible without a mentor who advocated on my behalf to stakeholders who I didn’t have a relationship with.”

Flexibility around paths to progression and taking charge of your own development are also key success factors that Watton passes on to her own mentees. “Turn the inner critic down. I encourage women to be vocal about what they want to do and how they want to contribute so that others around them can be active supporters.

“I see successful women challenge themselves around nontraditional paths. Getting that diversity of experience across the organization enables them to contribute at a different level and with a more strategic perspective than in a narrow subject area.”

Women in Power and Utilities

Amid fundamental change, the ability to innovate will be critical. But new EY research and interviews we’ve conducted with several leaders in P&U suggest that utilities’ challenges around innovation and diversity may be linked.

Read more

Summary

Utilities must embed diversity into every aspect of strategy and operations if they are serious about delivering sustainable value in a rapidly changing and dynamic environment. 

About this article

By

Cyntressa Dickey

EY Americas People Advisory Services – Energy Leader

Transformation advisor to leading energy and other Fortune 500 companies. Passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity. Chemical engineer. Committed to fitness and Atlanta Bootcamp.