Diversity & Inclusion Spotlight
Madison Energy Investments
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.
NYSEIA: How did diversity and inclusion become a priority at your company and what has been the impact?
Richard Walsh: It honestly happened naturally. My fellow founders and I were fortunate to work at WGL Energy together prior to starting Madison Energy Investments, and they placed a priority on diversity and inclusion (D&I) at all levels of the organization. As a result, we were able to see the value of D&I firsthand. As we grew the team and expanded the business it became clear that we needed people that had different backgrounds and perspectives.
Shivapriya Balasubramanian was our first hire and while she had commercial solar experience and utility consulting experience, it was all in the Indian market. Her way of looking at things, combined with her natural talent and intelligence, confirmed our suspicion that we needed to place a high priority on D&I. With just 18 people on the team, we have representation from seven countries outside the United States and are almost 50 percent female, which is WAY ahead of the rest of the energy industry. And even so, we are always trying to do better and learn best practices within the industry.
Did you have to adapt your internal practices to achieve specific goals?
We are always tweaking our internal practices and trying to stay up to speed on the best strategies for hiring and recruiting top talent through a D&I lens. During a recent call with Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy we were alerted to a few tools and resources that can help us alter our job descriptions to reach a wider audience, especially more women. Those resources are bias interrupters and textio. Outside of these new tools, we try to leverage our networks, use LinkedIn, and lean on other organizational relationships with industry associations (CELI, SEIA, ACORE, etc.) as well our relationships with top business schools.
Were there any challenges that were difficult to navigate?
The biggest challenge is that over 85 percent of our applicants to date are male and over 80 percent of our applicants are white. We understand we can do some things to increase that in terms of our outreach, inbound channels, and now even the way we write our job descriptions, but the numbers are still challenging.
How has having a more diverse staff benefited your operations?
Above all, we value diversity of thought and perspective. You can often shortcut that by ensuring you have a team with a variety of backgrounds. As it relates to D&I, we see value in having a team that is, at minimum, representative of the population. We make multiple investment decisions per week and we need to make sure our team is providing a holistic perspective. This can include everything from underwriting credit to reviewing new technologies.
Additionally, our team has a variety of professional backgrounds and this is immensely helpful. When we’re closing and executing on a $100M+ financing facility, it is helpful to have a former investment banker on the team along with a lawyer who has worked in private equity, a lawyer who has worked in multiple countries, and a former consultant who has reviewed hundreds of solar deals.
Did you develop your practices in-house or learn from outside sources?
Mostly in-house, but we leaned on our industry partners and educational partners, and we increasingly lean on our team to help us refine the process.
Where do you see room for continued growth and improvement in terms of diversity and inclusion?
It has to start earlier in the process. There is only so much you can do during the hiring process, but if the talent isn’t developed and the experience isn’t there, then there won’t be any improvement. That is precisely why we are such a big supporter of the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI). Their goal is to create a diverse community of future clean energy leaders by providing professionals from outside clean energy with a pathway to enter this sought-after sector. That still is insufficient and so we are trying to go even earlier in the process. Our Senior Analyst Hermann Yibokou is a founding mentor with the Young Professionals in Energy NYC chapter to mentor college students. The college level is helpful and to the extent we can engage even earlier, we should.
Richard Walsh is a managing partner with Madison Energy Investments. He oversees all activities relating to business development and strategy, including project origination, new market analysis, and partner and customer relations.