Diversity & Inclusion Spotlight
This interview is part of a series of conversations with NYSEIA members about their process of improving representation and cohesion among staff through the hiring process and other diversity & inclusion initiatives. To learn more about our Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion committee, or to participate in the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
After realizing that they had to do more (personally and publicly) in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, BlueWave Solar staff formed a Social Impact Committee (SIC) to better organize and hold themselves accountable. The committee serves as an internal hub with its own budget that communicates antiracist goals, values, and actions taken. Topic-based subgroups allow group leaders to run with their ideas and report back to the SIC and the company as a whole. NYSEIA spoke with a few internal leaders at BlueWave about the work they’ve done to advance BlueWave’s antiracist action plan over the past year.
NYSEIA: Last year BlueWave put forth an antiracism plan. What has the plan achieved and what has the company learned or changed in the process?
Jess Forcello (Director of Communications and Marketing – Communications Lead): Over the past year we have made the most progress against our plan in three categories. The first is setting budget aside and conducting a search for a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consultant to continue to shape this work within our organization. Next, we were actively engaged in the election cycle to support antiracist candidates and causes, while also using our platform to support civic engagement. Finally, we have partnered with several great organizations with the objective of better preparing BIPOC students for successful college and career paths, as well as to improve access to clean energy opportunities.
Making this commitment publicly and creating a dedicated budget has helped to drive the importance of making progress in this work and holding ourselves accountable, among other goals that have a more direct impact on our bottom line.
NYSEIA: What sort of internal practices has BlueWave adopted to foster an inclusive and cohesive workforce?
Rachel Clogston (Associate for People and Civic Engagement – Training and Consulting Lead): BlueWave has taken a hard look at our internal practices to combat any “neutrality” when it comes to social issues. In an industry that is heavily white-male dominated like the energy industry, neutrality can too easily lead to complacency and silence where we need action and voices. As a B Corp, we value integrity, transparency and accountability, and none of that can be attained if we’re not willfully educating ourselves and becoming aware of inequities for various demographics and how they got there.
Through internal grassroots efforts and support from the executives, BlueWave has rebooted our internal newsletter with a focus on JEDI topics to provide the context, history, and motivation behind what we are trying to do with our Social Impact Committee initiatives. We’ve created company Teams Channels dedicated to talking about current affairs and social justice issues, as well as space in the workday to gather and talk about pressing issues, like the murder of George Floyd, or voter suppression laws.
The more we learn the more we’ll be able to see where changes can and need to be made. For example, in the recruiting and hiring process, it’s been vital that we actively recruit in places with more diverse audiences, and check the language in the job description so it doesn’t discourage a demographic from applying.
BlueWavers have put in a lot of effort to make internal changes, but the company recognizes that we need to do more and get help in creating a JEDI strategy that will lead to intrinsic behavioral change internally, so we can have the tools to exact more change externally. To do that we are looking to the professionals and are in the midst of selecting a JEDI consultant to help us accomplish the goals we set in our antiracist action plan and beyond.
NYSEIA: What is BlueWave doing in the wider community to have an impact?
Kaitlin Hollinger (Policy Manager – Elections Lead): Since the Social Impact Committee was formed in the months leading up to the 2020 election, we immediately began building out resources to support voting and census education. We implemented internal trainings as well as external communications on our customer bills to facilitate voter access and participation. The highlight of our work was a forum with MassVOTE’s Executive Director, Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, as well as our matching donation to support community based organizing ahead of the election. A group of BlueWavers mobilized to hand out voter information in New Hampshire, while others phone banked from home.
After the election, we wanted to continue participating in local and national organizing efforts that aligned with the individual passions of BlueWavers as well as our company values and commitment to JEDI efforts. We’ve since held monthly Action Hours, where each session is facilitated by one of our staff to educate and mobilize other BlueWavers to take action on an issue that’s important to them. As a result, we’ve taken action to Stop Line 3, raised awareness about hate crimes against AAPI individuals, sent letters advocating against new prisons in our community, and participated in the #Call4Climate. I’m so energized by what causes and actionable steps BlueWavers are bringing to our collective attention.
NYSEIA: How can BlueWave have an impact on the upcoming generation of solar professionals?
Joyce Joseph (Site Acquisition Analyst – Mentorship and Fellowship Lead): BlueWave can have an impact on the upcoming generation of solar professionals by continuing to create pathways and support to better prepare the next generation for successful college and career paths, and access to clean energy opportunities. We have a heavy focus on providing mentorship and fellowships for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students and professionals. By partnering with the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), Boston Private Industry Council (Boston PIC), Enroot, MassHire Downtown Boston Career Center, and Bottom Line, we are able to reach students and professionals from diverse backgrounds and share more about our work.
We have started to create internships for high school students and hosted a virtual job shadow day with high school students from Boston Green Academy and Boston PIC to inspire young people to join the clean energy field. We want to keep supporting local organizations by volunteering our time to mentor students, granting scholarships, and giving hands-on experience to students. As BlueWave provides these pathways into the industry and networking opportunities, the upcoming generation of solar professionals can feel empowered to work in clean energy and make a difference in the world.