Diversity and Inclusion: Exclusive Interview with Sempra LNG’s Chief Marketing Officer, Emily Shults

Diversity and inclusion have been on the business agenda for a number of years, yet the LNG & gas sector, to date, does not have a strong track record in the area. With the industry currently undergoing a period of change and disruption, we speak to Sempra LNG about what steps the industry needs to take to encourage a more diverse workforce.

What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion for businesses?

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have been part of the Sempra family of companies’ DNA for decades.  At Sempra LNG, we don’t view diversity and inclusion as a “nice to have”. Respecting, celebrating and valuing each of our employees is the right thing to do, but we also believe it is essential as we build a stronger and more successful company. Research bears the truth, diverse and inclusive teams are smarter, make better decisions and are more effective at solving problems.

For example, a Deloitte study found that organizations committed to D&I saw a 42% uplift in team collaboration, and according to a McKinsey survey, ethnically diverse companies are 33% more likely to outperform the national industry median on profitability and gender diverse companies are 21% more likely to have better financial returns.

When it comes to talent retention, diversity is the key, a study by the Harvard Business Review indicates that employees with inclusive managers are 1.3 times more likely to feel that their innovative potential is unlocked and employees who are able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to leave their jobs within a year.

Is the global pandemic a threat or an opportunity when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion in the LNG & gas industry?

COVID-19 is absolutely a threat to the advances every industry made in diversity and inclusion.   A recent McKinsey survey that Sempra LNG participated in found that 25% of women in the workplace are considering temporarily leaving the workforce in order to take care of the additional obligations outside of the workplace that the pandemic is bringing to their families.

We at Sempra LNG are committed to doubling down on our efforts and turning this challenge into an opportunity to become an employer of choice by having policies and practices in place to support women and minorities in the workplace. We want to ensure that they have the support and resources necessary for both their work and personal life, and not just to withstand these new stresses, but also to continue to develop and thrive. We are thinking outside the box by offering more support services outside the workplace, like creating helpful tools that go beyond the “traditional” programs.  This kind of support is reflected in things such as flexible work hours and facilitating remote working, assisting with tutoring services for kids and providing childcare assistance, among others.

 In your opinion, what are three things that the LNG & gas industry needs to do to improve its track record of encouraging and nurturing diverse talent?

  1. We need to continue to work at all levels, to overcome unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions. At Sempra LNG, we have already adopted practices such as gender, race and ethnicity blind resume reviews, having diverse interview panels and educating and coaching our hiring managers on how to eliminate unconscious bias. Another tool we’re using at Sempra are job description neutralizers. As an example, imagine how many more qualified women candidates would we attract if we moved away from advertising that we’re looking for a “hard-charging operations manager”.
  2. The LNG and natural gas industry as a whole needs to continue actively seeking to increase the number of employees from underrepresented communities in our workforce, with a particular focus on women and, in the U.S., on people of color including Black and African American employees. We recognize, however, the focus may be on other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in other parts of the world.
  3. It’s not enough to simply hire more employees from underrepresented communities, we also must help them develop and grow into the leaders of tomorrow by increasing the number of organizational leaders at all levels from those same underrepresented groups.

What approaches are Sempra LNG taking to promote diversity and inclusion?

We have created a Racial Equity Action Plan focused on five core values: leading from the top, accelerating employee engagement around diversity and inclusion, creating more opportunity for underrepresented groups, driving conscious inclusion, and better partnering with the communities in which we operate.

Second, to complement similar programs at our San Diego headquarters, we also have created a Houston LNG Local Diversity and Inclusion Council. This group of employee volunteers is part of a larger employee-led movement driven by a desire to educate and increase awareness around issues of diversity and inclusion as we continue to grow our business along the Gulf Coast.

Third, we developed a program called GROW that seeks to enhance the responsibilities and opportunities for women within Sempra LNG and the LNG industry. It is multi-dimensional and includes networking, mentoring, education, skills development and implementing more inclusive hiring practices. Our goal is to become the LNG company of choice for women.

Finally, as part of an all Sempra LNG transformation effort that we call “The Sempra LNG Way”, we are intensely focused on people and culture issues, including diversity and inclusion.  We have made it clear that it is an important aspect of the way we do things at Sempra LNG and that the Sempra LNG Way is part of how we create a sense of belonging for all employees. The Sempra LNG Way launched in September of 2020 and our transformation efforts will continue well into 2021 as we work to weave inclusion into all aspects of our employee experience.

Sempra LNG will be participating in the upcoming World LNG Virtual Summit & Awards. Find out more here

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