The Importance of Inclusion in the Workforce

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Nora Swimm, senior vice president – Corporate Client Services

By Nora Swimm, senior vice president – Corporate Client Services

I had the honor of joining my fellow board members from the American Association of People with Disabilities recently in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A landmark for equality, the ADA became law on July 26, 1990, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in schools, workplaces and all public spaces. At the July 23 annual celebration in Washington, D.C., community advocates and elected officials lauded important milestones during decades of progress for disability rights.

As I listened to inspirational stories told by people who have overcome adversity, I felt proud to be among those who advocate for the rights of the disabled, and was more impressed than ever with the importance of diversity and inclusion everywhere. At PJM Interconnection, we take that message to heart.

Diverse Communities. Shared Goals

On the surface, PJM’s role as operator of the electric power grid, and the country’s largest wholesale electricity market for 13 states and Washington, D.C., is worlds apart from the mission of the American Association of People with Disabilities. But like the AAPD, PJM listens to diverse stakeholder groups, seeks consensus among divergent interests and works toward common goals. Both organizations act as catalysts for their stakeholders to identify, promote and implement solutions.

The energy industry deals in rule-based disciplines of physics, engineering, mathematics, information architecture and markets, so complying with ADA laws in our campus buildings, offices, workspaces, common areas and other facilities is completely within our comfort zone.

But at PJM and across the industry, the equally important – but more nuanced – work of advancing diversity and inclusion has to move to the next level. I believe we are at least on our way.

At PJM, we live our core values of integrity, accountability, communication, respect and excellence. Diversity and inclusion are embedded in these values. And as a member of PJM’s Executive Team, I live these values every day.

But PJM employees really make the difference. Here are just a few of the many ways they advance commitment to inclusion.

  • Diversity & Inclusion Council. Our Diversity & Inclusion Council propels the ongoing conversation via a quarterly newsletter, provides advice and recommendations to the Executive Team and works with our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). This volunteer council is more focused than ever on recruiting, reviewing PJM policies and procedures, learning best practices and expanding career opportunities.
  • Employee Resource Groups. Lambda is PJM’s newest ERG. Its mission aims to strengthen our community of pride, solidarity and a bond of shared experience for LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc.) people and their allies. This newest ERG is the latest fruit of a vibrant network of ERGs that includes Bridge (fostering African American culture), the Asian-American ERG, Innov8 (fostering innovation), the PJM Networking Group, the Women’s Empowerment Association, STEAM (connecting staff with students) and Toastmasters.
  • Recruiting. Our Diversity Recruitment Plan focuses on inspiring diverse students to help staff the next generation of energy professionals. We connect with STEM-focused college students from communities historically underrepresented in the power industry. The Diverse Internship Program recruits students from historically diverse schools to work as interns at PJM. As a result, our bright future walks among us!
  • Civic and Community Outreach. Through fundraising, charity walk events or time spent as volunteers, our employees demonstrate ongoing support for dozens of diverse charities and efforts to benefit our communities and underserved populations.

Building an Intentional Community, One Conversation at a Time

We have so much to celebrate and more work ahead as we bring our core values to life. We create a culture where people can bring their whole selves to work, where everyone has career opportunities, and where all feel safe and respected. No one should be underestimated based on superficialities. To achieve that goal every day, we embrace the challenge to think differently, to build more diverse and inclusive teams and leaders, to learn from one another and to grow as individuals and as an organization.