TODAY’S STUDY: U.S. Solar Is Growing Diversity With Power
U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study: 2017 Current Trends, Best Practices, and Recommendations
September 2017 (The Solar Foundation)
The Solar Foundation’s 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is the first comprehensive research and baseline analysis of diversity in the solar industry. The data and analysis included in this report are the result of surveys and interviews conducted with both solar employers and employees.
The Solar Foundation’s National National Solar Jobs Census 2016 shows that there are more than 260,000 solar workers nationwide, and in 2016, one in out of every 50 new U.S. jobs were in solar. Although the industry has seen growth over the years, women make up only 28% of the solar workforce. This represents a four-percentage point increase from 2015, the largest annual jump to date. People of color still comprise relatively small percentages of the domestic solar workforce which has remained relatively stagnant over recent years. Today, 17% of U.S. solar workers are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are African American, 9% are Asian, and American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian each account for less than 1%. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces make up 9% of the industry’s workforce.
In this first quantitative and qualitative Solar Industry Diversity Study, which synthesizes data from both employers and employees, The Solar Foundationn sought to go beyond these high-level numbers and develop more granular insights that ensure a greater understanding of diversity in the industry so that change may occur over time.
Key Findings from the Employee Survey:
Positions By Race
• People of color are more likely to be represented at mid-level positions than at the Manager, Director, and President (MDP) level. This difference is particularly notable for African American respondents hold midlevel positions, while only 18% hold MDP level positions. • Women of color face the greatest discrepancy in promotion from mid-level positions to MDP level positions and the lowest likelihood of earning top-tier wages.
Wages By Gender And Race
• Men are significantly more likely to earn wages that fall in the highest wage bracket of $75 or more per hour. Thirty-six percent of white male respondents earn salaries in this wage bracket, compared to 28% of men of color and 21% of white women. Women of color are grossly excluded from the highest wage category, with only 4% of women of color earning wages above $75 per hour.
• Only 8% of African Americans indicated that they are “very satisfied” with their wage and position, and 42% indicated that they are “not at all satisfied.” For comparison, 52% of white respondents said that they are “very satisfied” with their wage and position, and only 6% of white respondents indicated that they are “not at all satisfied”.
• Women of color are least likely to be “very satisfied” with their current wage and position, with only 19% of women of color choosing this response (compared to 47% of men of color respondents, 60% of white male respondents, and 45% of white female respondents).
• All women and people of color are less likely to earn executive level wages compared to white men.
• In terms of career growth, 50% of all respondents indicated that they have successfully moved up the career ladder and continue to do so. However, women are significantly more likely to respond that they have not been successful in moving up the career ladder (12% of women vs 4% of men).
• Only 8% of African American respondents feel that they have successfully moved up the career ladder, and 50% think they have not been successful in moving up in their careers and feel stuck in their current positions. This differs greatly from 52% of white respondents and 58% of Asian respondents that feel they have successfully moved up the career ladder.
• Overall, women are less likely than men to serve as mentors or sponsors. 62% of men responded that they have served as mentors or sponsors versus 38% of women. The gaps in mentorships between men and women reduce after reaching MDP level positions. Sixty-four percent of female respondents at MDP level serve as mentors or sponsors, five percent more than 59% of men serving as mentors in MDP positions.
Tracking And Promoting Diversity
• Just a little over a quarter of solar employers formally track employee demographics and diversity. 47% of employer respondents do not formally track employee diversity and 25% do not know the answer and/or refused to answer.
• In terms of specific programs to promote advancement and diversity, 41% of solar employer respondents have mentorship/sponsorship programs. Only 14% have a strategy in place to increase female representation, and 7% have a strategy in place to increase the representation of people of color.
• Although the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) has made a commitment to hire 50,000 veterans by 2020, veteran hiring strategies have not spread across the wider industry. Just over 1 in 10 companies have a strategy to increase the representation of veterans at their firms.
• Solar companies most commonly prefer to post jobs on sites like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder. Following this, word of mouth and online media are noted as the next preferred methods for recruiting. While these methods are often the most popular and have a wide reach, they may miss the opportunity in attracting candidates who may not be in the network.
In addition to an in-depth dive into the above findings, this report underscores the importance of diversity for employee well-being, the strength of the workforce, and a company’s bottom line. The study concludes with key recommendations and five action items that solar companies can implement over the next year. These action items include: creating a company-wide diversity pledge, establishing a formal diversity tracking and measurement tool, broadening recruitment efforts, implementing a less biased job application process, and establishing diversity training programs.
The 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is the first of its kind, comprehensive baseline analysis of diversity in the solar industry. The study is based on statistically significant data gathered from surveys and interviews with both solar employers and employees, and provides a close examination of the representation and experiences of women, people of color, and to the extent possible, Hispanics or Latinos, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community in the solar industry.
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2016 shows that there are more than 260,000 solar workers nationwide, and in 2016, one in out of every 50 new U.S. jobs were in solar. Although the industry has seen growth over the years, women make up only 28% of the solar workforce. This represents a four-percentage point increase from 2015, the largest annual jump to date. People of color still comprise relatively small percentages of the domestic solar workforce which has remained relatively stagnant over recent years. Today, 17% of U.S. solar workers are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are African American, 9% are Asian, and American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian each account for less than 1%. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces make up 9% of the industry’s workforce. The Solar Foundation has long believed what renowned management consultant and educator Peter Drucker once wrote: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Thus, in addition to the annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2015 The Solar Foundation issued a report on diversity and career pathways for disadvantaged populations in the state of Maryland. Long interested in going beyond anecdotes, myths, and assumptions, this first Solar Industry Diversity Study establishes a clear baseline for the U.S. and answers the following questions:
• What is the current landscape of diversity in the solar industry? How does it compare to other industries?
• What roles and responsibilities do individuals from diverse backgrounds hold in the solar industry?
• What are the examples of current policies, programs, and activities firms are employing to increase hiring of women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community?
• What are the best practices? How can the solar industry work toward increasing diversity in its workforce?
This report aims to go beyond the numbers and display a comprehensive understanding of diversity practices in the industry, as well as the experiences of men, women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community.
The following sections detail the findings from our surveys and lay out a set of best practices, recommendations, and action items companies might undertake to strengthen their diversity efforts. This report also includes five case studies of solar companies and organizations that are working toward making their workforce more inclusive. While the findings from our survey may not come as a surprise to some people, based on national trends on the topic of diversity and general observations of the solar industry workforce, it is our intent that the ideas presented here lead to meaningful actions, resulting in an increasingly diverse solar workforce. As substantial evidence suggests, diversity is positive for employee well-being, strength of the workforce, and a company’s bottom line.
The Case for Diversity
From information technology to utilities to academia, there is an ongoing push to increase workplace diversity of women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community to more accurately reflect the composition of the U.S. population.
Diversity in the American workplace has been steadily increasing over the years. Currently, women and people of color make up 47% and 34% of the American labor force, respectively.2 This is a dramatic increase over previous years. In the 1950s, for example, women accounted for only 29.6% of the labor force.3 Despite this increase in female representation, it is not yet seen across managerial and executive levels. Women still account for only 4.2% of CEO positions. In fact, at the large firms listed in the S&P 1500, female CEOs are outnumbered by CEOs named John alone.4 This discrepancy exists for people of color as well. Within the history of Fortune 500 companies, there have only been 15 African American CEOs; four of which hold CEO positions today.5 Of these, Ursula Burns of Xerox, who stepped down in 2016, is the only African American woman to have ever served as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
This lack of diversity has proven counter-productive as studies show companies with more diverse employees often fare better in both employee satisfaction and profitability. One study shows that companies with more diverse executive boards see 53% higher returns on equity compared to companies that score in the bottom quartile for diversity.6 Other studies show that having women in the senior management ranks of a company increases profitability.7 In 2016, research by the Peterson Institute for International Economics of 22,000 publicly-traded companies in 91 countries showed that companies with at least a third of their executive positions filled by women enjoyed, on average, an extra 6% in profits. Improvements in profits could be attributed to the inclusion of a range of skill sets and perspectives, resulting in better decision-making. Moreover, increased diversity allows companies to recruit, promote, and retain top talent resulting in a positive bottom line.
Similarly, other studies show that companies that rank at the top for racial and ethnic diversity overall are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns compared to their counterparts.9 A 2015 study found that organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns, while organizations with significant racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns.
Diversity in the workplace also fosters innovation and creativity, and consequently increases a company’s market share.11 Having a diverse workforce can introduce a company to new markets. According to HIP Investor Inc., companies that have a diverse workforce understand the unique characteristics of their customers and build products and services around those customers, leading to a greater diversification of revenues.12 In addition, employees from varied backgrounds can provide unique insights into the customer base with authentic reflections on cultural nuances, thereby giving companies a competitive edge. The evidence for diversity and inclusion resulting in emotional well-being is significant as well. Based on the Do Something Different program, an employee at a highly inclusive firm is four times more likely to report a healthy sense of well-being compared to one working at a firm with low levels of inclusiveness.13 A more diverse staff also helps a company attract and retain employees. A survey completed by the job site Glassdoor shows that 67% of respondents rated a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
Solar and other clean energy industries play an important role in the promotion of inclusiveness across the U.S. economy. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), along with groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar, to name a few, recognize the value of solar and clean energy in achieving environmental and economic justice for people of color and disadvantaged communities, not just on the consumer side, but also as a provider. According to the NAACP, African Americans, Native Americans, and low-income Americans are more likely to face health threats caused by power plant facilities and spend a larger share of their income on energy. At the same time, they are underrepresented in the energy industry workforce, severely limiting their ability to influence decisions ultimately impacting their communities. To address this inequality, institutions at all levels of governance are called to enact policy changes that work to reduce energy costs while expanding employment and business opportunities for people of color and low-income individuals.
Similar efforts by the Greenlining Institute work toward providing communities of color a voice on energy issues by ensuring that employment policies are fair and non-discriminatory and increase access to contracting opportunities for people of color, women, and veteran-owned businesses…