‘Inclusion and Belonging for All’ — 6 Leaders Share Why ERGs Are Important for Uplifting All People

Sponsored by Sunrun

Sunrun employee.

Photo courtesy of Sunrun.

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May 21, 2024 at 6:55PM UTC

"At Sunrun, we believe that empowering people and valuing their differences is essential for our mission” shares Nicolle Doyle, the Senior Inclusion and Diversity Partner at the company. “That’s why we strive to make solar inclusive in our workforce, workplaces, and the industry as a whole.” 

As part of her role, Nicolle conducts all internal programming for D&I topics and manages Sunrun’s employee resource groups (ERGs), which she explains are a key part of their inclusion strategy.

Sunrun’s ERGs help foster a culture of inclusion and belonging for all. They are led by talented Employees who care about making the company a more inclusive place to work. Each ERG focuses on attracting new future team members, the development and retention of underrepresented and marginalized employees, raising awareness of the depth of various identities and cultural backgrounds of Sunrunners, representing Sunrun in the Community, and participating in outreach programs. “Being involved in this work has been tremendously inspiring, engaging, and rewarding,” notes Nicolle. “I'm so thankful our company recognizes the importance of this work.”

Here, we got a chance to peek behind the scenes at the amazing ERGs at Sunrun by talking to few Sunrun ERG leaders, including:

  • Brooke White: A Senior Content Specialist and leader in the Women's+ ERG.

  • Charesse Woods: A Customer Success Manager and a Chair in the Black+ ERG and member in the Women’s ERG and Disability+ ERG.

  • Deanna Hernandez: A Field Sales Consultant and the LatinX ERG Chairwoman and member of the Women ERG, and LGBTQ+ ERG.

  • Riley Jordan: A Clean Energy Ambassador and leader in the Disability+ and Pride ERGs.

  • Vida Keene: A Senior Manager of Operations Quality and leader in the Disability+ and Women’s+ ERGs.

Read on for ERG inspiration!

Can you tell us a bit more about the employee resource groups at Sunrun?

Nicolle: By joining an ERG, our employees help shape company initiatives, network with leaders across the organization, and have an opportunity to participate in community outreach initiatives. We encourage all employees to join at least one ERG, whether they identify as part of the group or join as an ally. All are welcome!

Brooke: The ERGs help foster a culture of inclusion and belonging for all, especially for historically marginalized groups and allies of those who identify within those groups. It's easy to be skeptical when a company is working toward being a diverse and inclusive environment, but I've found that Sunrun makes good on every commitment they make in this area

Charesse: Sunrun’s ERGs create a place where every employee, regardless of background, gender, race, creed, identity, or ability can feel welcomed and have a platform to be heard.

Deanna: Our ERGs are creating ripples. We are allowed the creative space, the resources, and the support to generate successful ERGs. We are not alone when it comes to some of the struggles and obstacles that have held many of us back. Sunrun knows that we are valuable and capable, no matter what race, ethnicity, or even your gender we are. We accept you, and we welcome you to join our forces to create a better workplace while having a healthy mindset and creating a planet run by the sun.

Riley: Our employee resource groups create a much needed space for minorities to come together and share experiences and knowledge between themselves.

Vida: The ERGs at Sunrun are relatively new, but our activities so far have drawn on an active, engaged community that is focused on sharing resources, articles, and tips, as well as bringing people together in a safe space to discuss their experiences.

What has your ERG accomplished that you’re most proud of?

Nicolle: Our ERGs engage and support our employees deeply. From celebrating religious and cultural holidays and hosting community game and movie nights to digging deeper into issues that impact our employees and holding informational seminars, podcasts, and guidelines. 

Brooke: We've done a great job of providing events for women and allies to network and get to know each other, about hard things, and have tough conversations. We've also prioritized wellness and hosting wellness events where our members can take care of themselves and put themselves first for a bit.

Charesse: In celebration of the MLK Holiday, the Black+ ERG hosted a Sunrun town hall. We discussed the past, present, and future of the Black community. During which, we focussed on discovering where we have come from and what needs to happen in the future to elevate our people through today's society. It was an enlightening hour-long conversation for all who attended.

Deanna:  We collaborate with executives, sponsors, and all of our ERG members on a consistent basis…which helps get our ERG group involved and allows us to network with other members throughout the nation!

Riley: Being a safe space for anyone with a disability or a caretaker or ally to come together for support.

Vida: I'm just so proud that we created a connection within the Sunrun community where so many individuals have been inspired to courageously share their stories and have shown so much appreciation for each other.

Why do you believe Sunrun is a particularly supportive place for employees who identify as women or nonbinary?

Nicolle: Sunrun was co-founded and run by a CEO who identifies as a woman. It's an organization that's built on the premise that everyone deserves equal access to reliable and clean energy. This passion and awareness is embedded throughout the organization. From our mission and values to our culture and ESG Goals, Sunrun is committed to providing an inclusive culture and equal opportunities to all employees to advance in the workplace. 

Brooke: Sunrun has worked very hard to achieve wage parity and continues to work to increase the number of women who are in management roles and higher.

Charesse: Sunrun is leading by example by making sure that employees who identify as women are represented in all company organization structures. We are building the woman’s footprint in leadership as well.

Deanna: We have a lot of women that hold many high-ranking roles that have traditionally been held by men within this company. Our current and previous CEO are both women and have made so many waves within the solar industry. It's setting the tone that women in business are a necessity. We get things done!

Riley: As someone who identifies as non-binary, Sunrun and its employees have been so supportive and inclusive. When I experienced issues with one of my coworkers using my pronouns, there was no hesitation in getting the issue resolved.

Vida: We have several women in leadership positions who are great role models and who are celebrated for their successes. I've been particularly gratified to both experience and observe many instances of people specifically inviting women to contribute to discussions in meetings and acknowledge women for their good ideas.

How have you used your ERG role to help lift up other employees behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?

Brooke: I always make myself available for my female coworkers to come and share anything they want to talk through or ask me about. I've had two coworkers who have reached out to me when they've had concerns about work or needed to talk. I want to be a safe place where my female coworkers know they can find support and genuine friendship.

On a smaller level with my circle of friends and colleagues, I try my hardest to promote staying optimistic, and I offer advice on how to get out of the ruts they might be in. Knowing that I've been through so much, I hate to see others struggle so I do what I can to help. With selling solar and being a LatinX Chair, I'm working on promoting empowerment to those that need it the most.

Charesse: In my current role, my biggest impact for other Women or non-binary employees is felt through leadership development and training, where I prepare these individuals for the next level.

Deanna: I’ve hit rock bottom and climbed my way back up to make something happen for myself and my family. I shared what I've gone through with my ERG to let others know that no matter what happens in your life, we must not be the victim. Instead, it’s important to take action in our lives no matter how hard it is or has been.

Riley: I am an outspoken non-binary employee who will always do whatever I can to help other non-binary employees thrive, whatever that may mean.

Vida: I have mentored and hired several women, including one former designer for whom I created a new role to allow her to do the automation programming she had been working on in her spare time. I don't "build time" for this work; I consider it to be very much part of my job as a people and organization leader.

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