Anderson says it’s important to give leaders the tools they need to build diverse and inclusive teams.
“Everyone, no matter how well-intentioned, holds unconscious bias that impacts who they hire, who they promote and how they lead teams. Our leaders undergo specific step-by-step training that helps mitigate this unconscious bias — we’ve already rolled it out to our top 500 leaders.”
Divergent views are welcome at Duke Energy, which Anderson says is building an environment that aims to make everyone feel safe to speak their mind. “If we want to engage with our employees, they need to feel confident giving their opinions, even if they’re provocative.”
Different perspectives are important in a sector navigating several transformative factors, including the rise of the empowered customer. Nurturing an ability to better engage with its customers across seven US states is another key driver for Duke Energy’s push to increase the diversity of its workforce, explains Anderson.
“When our customers’ needs are multifaceted, a diverse employee base is a huge advantage because it replicates the community we serve. Bringing together different skills, disciplines, languages and multiple generations allows us to engage more effectively with our community.”
Anderson says this is helping shift the company’s mindset and prepare it for a changing energy sector. “We’re becoming more adaptive in our approach — we pilot fast and are prepared to fail fast. We’re evolving technology to interact with customers through a multichannel approach.”
Strategic leadership paths for promising women
A clear message from EY research into women in leadership is that it’s difficult to retain and advance women on a pathway from junior to senior levels. With this challenge in mind, Anderson says that one of her top priorities is designing executive leadership paths that aim to identify promising junior women at Duke Energy and accelerate their development. In keeping with the utility’s intentional approach to diversity, these paths are strategic and long term.
“We give these women robust career assignments and a myriad of moves along a leadership pipeline that may span 3, 5 or 10 years. We match each woman’s own plan to specific opportunities, assign her a coach or mentor and, as she progresses, a sponsor who’s been carefully selected to help her develop both professionally and personally.”
The personal element shouldn’t be overlooked, says Anderson. “Experienced women are a great benefit in helping women with less experience navigate potential problems with family — everything from juggling childcare to handling a difficult conversation with your partner about relocating for your career.”
Both female and male mentors have been critical to Anderson’s own career, particularly by pushing her to take on roles for which she didn’t think she was ready.
“Now I tell other women — don’t let your own preconceived ideas limit you in considering opportunities. Run to the fire. Take the risks. I was willing to go to the places where the business needed me — including places where I had no previous interest. Pushing through difficult situations to add value to the business can help you advance.”