On International Women’s Day and every day, Atlas Renewable Energy places diversity and inclusion at the forefront.
At Atlas Renewable Energy, we want to lead our sector in terms of gender balance, diversity, and inclusion (D&I). We’re pushing to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, and change attitudes – in our industry, our offices, and in the communities where we operate. We understand that to make a difference we need to go beyond awareness raising to addressing the issues from a more tangible perspective. Although there is still much to be done, here we present some of the initiatives we have developed to contribute toward equal opportunities.
CREATING CHANGE FROM WITHIN
When we launched in early 2017, we were immediately aware that we had key imbalances in regard to gender, with a small percentage of women and even less representation in the technical, managerial, and decision-making levels. And the problem wasn’t ours alone: across the wider renewable energy sector as a whole, women make up only a small percentage of the workforce. According to a study conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2019, women represent only 32% of full-time employees of the renewable energy workforce globally.
We believe that the fact that we operate in a male-dominated industry is no excuse. So we set about creating an internal culture that embraced inclusiveness and diversity right from the start, and we began to look for ways to transform our company into one that could be characterized by equality.
Our first step was to make our recruitment process more inclusive. We insisted that there should be at least one female candidate in every recruitment shortlist and that the overall candidate pool should be as diverse as possible. To avoid any kind of hiring bias, we asked our recruiters to present us with blind resumes, which mask not only the gender of candidates, but also their age, ethnicity, and location.
Our efforts have paid off: today, our corporate total headcount is 40% female, versus just 11% four years ago.
BREAKING DOWN STRUCTURAL BARRIERS
But simply getting more women into the company isn’t enough. In order to be truly gender-responsive, we implemented a series of measures to create a corporate culture based on equal opportunities, non-discrimination, and respect for diversity.
These include our unconscious bias training and D&I immersion program, which is provided to all staff members and focuses not only on gender distinctions but also seeks to challenge prejudiced ways of thinking that could unfairly influence decisions.
We also looked at the structural barriers preventing greater female participation in the workforce. The linkage between family responsibilities and decreased female labor force participation has been well-documented, and as job-protected maternity leave entitlements have been proven to keep women in work, we looked at international best practices and put in place maternity leave of six months at full salary. This initiative has been implemented in all countries in which Atlas is present, going in many cases further than what local regulations would require.
To avoid creating a bias against hiring women as a result, we also extended one month of parental leave to men – compared to the minimum paid paternity leave of five to eight days in many of the markets in which we operate.
Furthermore, in order to ensure we take into account all types of families, we also implemented adoption leave for our employees.
Another structural barrier is around childcare. We don’t believe women or men should have to choose between caring for their children or prioritizing their own careers, so we implemented a monthly childcare allowance for children up to age three, which enables team members who choose to return to the workforce after having or adopting a child to do so.
When building diversity and inclusion policies, we believe that it is vital that they are consistent across the board. So, no matter whether our employees are based in Chile, Mexico, Brazil, or in the U.S., our structure remains the same to ensure that our commitment to equality is clear everywhere.
WOMEN CANNOT BE WHAT THEY CANNOT SEE
The next part of our journey is around enabling Atlas’ female employees to advance in their professional and personal growth. To build on this, we have put in place a talent and mentoring program to support their personal and professional growth, ensuring that we create a strong pipeline of female leaders for the future.
GOING BEYOND OUR OFFICES TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Because of our geographical footprint and the impact we can make in the communities where we operate, we are in a strong position to mobilize our own contractors and work with local communities to promote similar values in female representation, and so we have embarked on a diversity and inclusion journey through an ambitious female workforce program, in partnership with local institutions and governments.
Under the name ‘We are all part of the same energy’, the program aims to improve local women’s access to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities by leveraging the economic development potential of the areas in which we are building renewable energy projects in order to create jobs.
So far, we are well on the way to upskilling at least 700 women from nearby communities into our assets currently under construction in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. Using market studies, we identify skill gaps and job opportunities and then design our training to meet those needs. We then work to include a proportion of the women trained either into our own supply chains and mobilize our contractors to prioritize their inclusion in their hiring process or facilitate linkages with other industries in our area of influence.
It isn’t only gender equality that we are addressing in our markets. In many cases, we will be a neighbor to local communities for decades, so we have also implemented additional inclusion policies to ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities our projects can provide. We operate across diverse markets, and as a result, we are cognizant of the need to tailor our approach to the societal backdrop of the area in which we operate in order to have the greatest impact.
For example, at our Jacarandá project in Brazil, our hiring policies have been structured to ensure that at least 35% of the total workforce is made up of people of color, who are often excluded from employment opportunities because of racial discrimination. To date, 74% of the women and 79% of the men currently employed at Jacarandá are of Afro-Brazilian descent, and overall, 56 women are employed in the construction of this project, accounting for fully 15% of the total workforce.
Meanwhile, as of the beginning of March, we have hired 95 women in our project in Sol de Desierto in Chile, representing 14% of the total workforce, and in Mexico, we have set up a training program to equip close to 300 women with a variety of skills, which we intend to replicate in Lar do Sol – Casablanca, an Atlas solar plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
A SYSTEMIC VIEW
At Atlas, our goal is to continue moving forward to become a benchmark in equality for our sector, and for the wider infrastructure and energy industries.
Although the progress we have made so far is significant, there is still much work to be done. But by acknowledging the gaps and looking for tangible solutions, we aim to build a more equitable future, that allows everyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, background, or ability, to access equal opportunities.