Shades of Green: A Diversity Forum

October 28, 2019 Mark Sebree

In early October, I attended the 2nd annual Shades of Green Forum in Philadelphia. This unique forum brings together a diverse group of industry professionals including utilities, energy consultants, energy professionals of color, and leaders of minority-owned businesses as well as other stakeholders.

The opening keynote, Why Green is Not the New Black or Brown, featured Fred Tutman, CEO of Patuxent Riverkeeper. Fred highlighted his lifelong work of promoting clean water justice and water conservation. He made it clear that while much progress has been made, there’s even more work to do in this space.

We also had a look at energy policy trends and predictions in the panel discussion Energy Policy at a Crossroads: Where is it today? What Will It look like post-2020? A key takeaway for me was the imperative of diversity in policy-making bodies as well as boards of directors to result in fair and equitable decisions and policies.

We heard a bit of real talk in The Real and Perceived Stigma of Being a WMBE Firm panel. A group of women and minority business gave a raw glimpse into the types of varied responses received from corporations during their business development stage. There’s still much work to be done in developing a climate of respect and dignity in the supplier diversity arena.

For me, the highlight of this forum was hearing the introspective comments of Law Professor Anita Hill. Just as a quick reminder, Professor Anita Hill was thrust into the public eye when she was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas due to allegations of sexual harassment. Anita Hill’s topic for the day was the importance of advocating for inclusion and knowing when and how to speak up to effect positive change in views of women, minorities, and other potentially marginalized groups. She also spoke of ways to approach policy discussions and how to prevent unacceptable behaviors from becoming normalized. For me personally, Anita Hill represents my sisters, my wife, my mother, and all other females in my life — they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I’m reminded that our words and actions matter and can have a lasting effect on those around us.

Our own Tina Semotan was featured in the panel A View From the C-Suite. Tina was joined bytina-semotan-at-conference executives from the American Petroleum Institute, Resource Innovations, and American Water.  This was a very insightful look into the executive-level thought process as it relates to Diversity and Inclusion. Tina took us on her personal journey as a leader in the Air Force and in corporate American and gave us a glimpse into how it shaped her into the person she is today. All were impressed with the Franklin Energy Diversity and Inclusion commitment. You may think I am biased here (ok, I admit it, I am) but Tina knocked it out of the park! Here’s a direct quote from one of the forum organizers: “Tina participated in our C-suite panel and I was really impressed with her. Behind Anita Hill, Tina was rated the highest in our post-event survey.” At one point, one of our current utility clients was moved to get up and immediately request a meeting with Tina to discuss how we can partner on our D&I commitments together! Way to represent, Tina!

Overall, Shades of Green was an excellent forum with very timely content. I would like to see it grow as the topic of diversity and inclusion is not going away. The good news is it’s on most radars and, little by little, Diversity and Inclusion are becoming a way of life.

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