Female empowerment a central tenet in Hydro Ottawa's diversity and inclusion plan

Any company looking to stake its place in today’s market knows that diversity in hiring has become a key business imperative.

For organizations that serve the public, it’s all the more important to reflect the population they serve. As the region’s largest utility provider, Hydro Ottawa has made the hiring of a diverse workforce a top priority.

“The electricity sector has historically been very male-dominated,” says Cindy Newell, Hydro Ottawa’s Director of Organizational Development.

As an employer committed to diversity, Hydro Ottawa does more than pay lip service to diverse hiring; the utility takes active measures to work towards building a workforce that reflects the communities it serves.

“Currently, we are focused on normalizing the presence of women in the trades,” says Newell.

Commitment to diversity 

The utility recently launched its second multi-year diversity and inclusion plan. Under the program, which is slated to run until 2020, gender diversity is one of several key areas of focus.

Newell explains Hydro Ottawa has undertaken several “bold initiatives” aimed at encouraging women to pursue work in traditionally male-dominated occupations.

At the beginning of 2017, the utility signed onto the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity for the Electricity Industry as a founding partner. Signatories commit to not only open the doors to more women in their ranks, but to actively implement practices that enable women to move up the ladder. The accord was put forth by Electricity Human Resources Canada.

“It’s a commitment to breaking down some of the barriers and working towards integrating more women at all levels of the workplace,” explains Newell.

As outlined in the accord, it’s not enough for organizations to simply hire more women; true diversity will only come as more women are welcomed into leadership positions, serving as role models for the generations that follow.

“It comes from the top down,” as Newell puts it.

With that in mind, Hydro Ottawa offers a Taking the Stage program delivered by the Niagara Institute, which is designed to nurture women within the organization to prepare them for leadership roles. This marks the third year the utility has been offering the program to its female leaders and emerging leaders.

Representing Ottawa

Hydro Ottawa aims to promote a workforce that mirrors the diversity of the communities it serves.

“That includes women, visible minorities, new Canadians, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, and youth,” says Newell. “Attracting, engaging and retaining diverse talent spurs innovation and drives growth; and reflecting the communities that we serve means that we can offer additional value to our customers.”

And the efforts to empower its employees have paid off; 2018 marks the tenth consecutive year that Hydro Ottawa has won a Top Employer award for the National Capital Region.

In the coming years, Hydro Ottawa hopes to see more women join and advance within the organization.

“We’re certainly seeing a difference, but we still have some work do to,” says Newell.