In the summer of 2017, several EnterSolar employees formed The Women of EnterSolar group with a simple but important mission: to support and promote women’s professional growth across all teams in order to benefit their careers and the company overall. After attending a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Women’s Empowerment Conference, we felt inspired to designate a time to discuss and address common biases and roadblocks that women face in the workplace, as well as create a space where women employees feel empowered to talk about the ways they want to grow their careers. As a founding member of The Women of EnterSolar group, I feel fortunate to work for a company that encourages and embraces these open conversations.
We hold monthly lunches to discuss professional goals, personal challenges, and relevant current events, readings, videos and articles that touch upon women rights and gender equality. Members of the group can volunteer to lead a discussion, choosing the subject matter and facilitating the conversation. Many of these meetings are open to everyone, not just individuals who identify as women. We want to have open and honest dialogues, listening to one another and appreciating all perspectives.
In 2018, we piloted a program that pairs a senior member with an entry or mid-level employee within the company. They meet one-on-one on a monthly basis to discuss career development and advice. There was additional interest outside of our group, so we opened the Mentorship Program to the entire company at the start of 2019. Today, our HR department pairs up people from different departments to allow for more communication across teams and to encourage candid and open conversations, while maintaining the original goal of encouraging the professional growth of entry/mid-level employee and fostering the more senior employee’s leadership skills.
In 2017, we began discussing ways we could make the onboarding process at EnterSolar an easier, more welcoming experience. We were a much smaller company at the time, and we wanted to implement a more personal way to make new hires – women and men – feel more at ease during their first days at EnterSolar. We created a program that pairs all new hires with members on the team from a different department. This “buddy” can help answer any questions the new hire might have concerning day-to-day office life. The buddy reaches out to the new hire prior to the starting date to begin building a rapport and meets with the buddy periodically during the first few weeks to make sure she or he is acclimating well. Even as we have grown as a company, we have received a lot of positive feedback in terms of new hires finding the transition to a new position easier with a buddy.
To help new hires get better acquainted with the various teams at EnterSolar, our HR department organizes a session that introduces them to personnel within each department. This idea stemmed from our group discussions when we recognized the value of providing a broader “orientation” that extends beyond the new member’s designated team. New hires can feel more at ease approaching other teams with questions once they understand how the company operates as a whole. The point-person representing a department in a Discovery Session explains the main functions of the job and how it relates to the bigger picture in terms of the business cycle. These sessions happen once a quarter and are a great way to encourage learning and collaboration across all teams.
The book exchange program is our most recent initiative. It is open to all EnterSolar employees, and we ask that all books included are by women authors. We want to support women writers and discuss books that touch upon the female experience from many perspectives. The only requirement for joining is providing a book to swap with another person. We have divided the participants into smaller discussion groups that will meet for conversations with one another once all the books have had a chance to cycle through the entire group.
EnterSolar is an equal opportunity employer, and our leadership team strives to create a welcoming environment for all employees. “Diversity is a core value at EnterSolar, and we were excited to support the formation of the Women of EnterSolar group. Since its founding, the group has successfully developed and initiated programs with discernible benefits for the company as a whole,” says Paul Ahern, President and CEO of EnterSolar. The Women of EnterSolar group strongly believes in inclusivity in regards to all our initiatives, and members join on a voluntary basis.
It is up to all of us at EnterSolar to create a diverse and equitable place to work for all employees at our company. As The Women of EnterSolar group continues our meetings and initiatives, we hope that anyone who wants to be involved speaks up and joins our ongoing conversations.